Les derniers jours d' enfance
While under-recognized today, in her lifetime Cecilia Beaux was regarded as America's preeminent woman artist, and one of the most skillful portraitists of her generation. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy in the late 1870s but claimed that her only important artistic training had been two years of private study under the painter William Sartain from 1881 to 1883. It was probably under Sartain's direction that she began this intimate portrait of her sister and nephew, a work that marked her debut as a painter. At the Academy's 1885 annual exhibition, the picture received the Mary Smith Prize for the best work by a local woman. It was also accepted into the 1887 Paris Salon, a coup Beaux deemed a turning point in her career. Grounded in the muted palette of realism, the work reflects her Academy training. Although Beaux denied the influence, the subject and composition strongly suggest James McNeill Whistler's "Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait if the Artist's Mother," a work Beaux surely saw when it was exhibited at the Academy in 1881. Beaux painted dozens of closely observed, touching portraits of women and children, for which she achieved wide fame. Later in her career, her sitters included a distinguished array of international figures. The Academy holds a significant body of work by Beaux, including thirteen oils, numerous sketches (given by the nephew depicted in this work), and significant study materials.