Robert Henri, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 1916, The Whitney Museum of Art
Robert Henri’s portrait of art patron Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1916) is one of my favorite paintings from the exhibition Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time, currently at the Whitney. Henri has captured the quintessential modern woman of the time: She has this exotic, louche quality in the way she is splayed on the couch, in the direct, coy look she gives us, in the exotic blue silk embroidered jacket and teal pajama pants she wears. Bohemians and art patrons were mad about Orientalism at the time, and her outfit recalls Paul Poiret’s Oriental-inspired couture of the early 1900s. Yet Whitney’s outfit is much lighter and more modern (Poiret may have abolished the corset, but he did design the constricting “hobble” skirt). Whitney’s jacket and pantsuit look a bit like Belgian designer Dries Van Noten’s multicultural mash-ups today. Indeed, she was so ahead of her time that her husband refused to hang a portrait of his wife wearing pants in their Fifth Avenue home, for fear it would scandalize visitors.
Everett Shinn, Revue, 1908, The Whitney Museum of Art
We saw this painting at the Whitney Museum’s Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time last weekend. The exhibition not only contains works by Hopper but by his contemporaries, including photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen and painters from the Ashcan School, who depicted everyday scenes from New York’s Bohemians and down-and-outs. I loved this painting of a showgirl by Ashcan artist Everett Shinn—particularly the performer’s outfit: her lace dress, her long gloves, her hat and her dainty low-heeled shoes.