E. AMBROSE WEBSTER
oil on canvas
signed E. A. Webster, l.l.
30 x 24 in., frame: 40 x 34 in.
Provenance: The Collection of Dr. Edward Sleeper, Boston, Massachusetts; then by descent.
Literature: Scott, Gail R., E. Ambrose Webster: Chasing the Sun - a Modern Painter of Light and Color, Manchester, VT, 2009, p. 152 (illus).
Other Notes: - Babcock Galleries, New York label verso
- Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh label verso
E. Ambrose Webster is considered one of the preeminent American Fauvists, best known for the striking colorwork found in his mature style. After beginning his artistic studies at the School of The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Webster traveled to Europe in 1896, a turning point in his career. Deeply influenced by the bright colorwork of Monet, van Gogh, and Matisse that he saw during his travels, Webster shifted away from the traditional academic style in which he had been trained, instead drawing to a saturated rendering of light and color. He returned to America and settled in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1900, opening the Webster Art School. Thirteen years later, he exhibited two works at the seminal 1913 Armory show. Throughout his career, he was celebrated by peers such as Edward Hopper, Maurice Prendergast, and Richard Diebenkorn.
The present work, painted in 1918, is an early example of Webster's shift away from landscapes toward the human form. Webster began to paint local women he encountered in his travels, seating them outdoors in bright light as he studied the interplay of light and shadow on their bodies. In these portraits, the women's forms take up much of the composition, the soft-hued background landscape becoming secondary to the vividly painted figure in the foreground. Consuela is a strong example of these portraits, and the thick, confident brushstrokes, the boldly rendered purples of her cloak, and the striking rendering of light across her face are all hallmarks of this transformative period of Webster's career.