This exhibition showcases portraits of women by American artists from the collection of The Fralin Museum of Art. Spanning the period from the early Republic through the 1950s, the show includes a diverse selection of paintings by prominent portrait painters such as Thomas Sully, Rembrandt Peale, George Luks, and others. The images on view reveal changing aesthetic investments in the representation of femininity, beauty, status, and individual identity during the surveyed period.
The selections also offer insight into the familial and sometimes intimate relationships between artists and their sitters, who in several cases were close relatives of the artists. For example, works by Mather Brown and John Toole, both of whom painted in-laws, as well as Paul Trebilcock and John Barber, both of whom painted their wives, demonstrate the subtle ways in which artists conveyed platonic affection and romantic love through portraits of the women in their lives. Amaylia Castaldo, wife of Paul Trebilcock and a successful artist in her own right, is also featured in the exhibition through her portrait of young Elizabeth Caldeson (ca. 1940).
By bringing together portraits of women by American artists, this exhibition will draw attention to the shifting codes of womanhood—as depicted through fashion, accessories, facial expression, and pose—and the ways in which these codes intersected with both evolving painterly styles and individual relationships from the early-19th through the mid-20th century.
The Fralin Museum of Art’s programming is generously supported by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. We would also like to thank our in-kind donors: WTJU 91.1 FM and Ivy Publications LLC’s Charlottesville Welcome Book.