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Lilla Cabot Perry

Born: 1848, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
Died: 1933, Hancock, New Hampshire, United States of America

The Green Hat
1913

Oil on canvas
Image: 33 3/4 x 26 1/4in. (85.7 x 66.7cm)
Frame: 41 1/2 x 33 3/4in. (105.4 x 85.7cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1987.25
Signed: Upper left: LC Perry/1913
Inscribed: Verso, upper left: Margaret Perry from her loving mother/for her birthday Apr. 13th 1924
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

Lilla Cabot Perry’s second daughter, Edith, modeled for The Green Hat, in which she is shown sitting facing left, with her face turned partly toward the viewer but her eyes gazing dreamily downward. Edith is enveloped in a black fur-trimmed cloak over her white blouse with ruffled cuffs. Her delicate head is overbalanced by an enormous black hat with a large fan-like green and gold decoration that lends color to this otherwise almost monochromatic image. The eyes, with their indirect gaze, are overshadowed by the hat just as the sitter’s personality seems subsumed in her social identity as a woman—or object—of fashion.

Figure painting was Perry’s forté and portraits were the mainstay of her career—and a large source of her family’s income. Together and singly, the three Perry daughters posed repeatedly for their mother from infancy on in portrayals that blend the generic and the individual. Images such as The Green Hat were widely popular at the turn of the twentieth century. With titles that emphasize a valued object held, regarded, or worn by the solitary, beautiful female figure, such works highlighted the painter’s ability not only to create a pleasing figural composition but to render female beauty—and potentially to flatter an actual sitter.

Perry was especially adept at the solid representation of the figure in space, underscored here in the play of light on Edith’s face. This traditional value is juxtaposed with a more expressive use of vivid brushwork for its own sake: the background against which Edith is so convincingly portrayed is patterned by series of active strokes of varied gray and orange that emphasize the flatness of the painting’s canvas surface as much as they suggest the wall and floor beyond the figure. This feature seems to hint at Perry’s awareness of new artistic challenges to the convention of a painting as a window onto imaged space. About the time she painted The Green Hat, however, Perry affirmed her allegiance to traditional artistic ideals as a founder of the ultra-conservative Guild of Boston Artists, where she exhibited the work in 1915. The painting’s agitated background may have a connection rather to Edith herself. Born in 1880, the middle of Perry’s three daughters, she suffered from mental illness. In The Green Hat, her air of melancholic reverie may reflect the painter’s intimate awareness of her unsettled inner world. Although repeatedly exhibited by the artist, the painting became a gift to her eldest daughter, Margaret, two years after Edith was confined to a private psychiatric hospital.

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Provenance

The artist
Margaret Perry, 1924 (daughter of artist)
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Grand Central Art Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1987

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Exhibition History

Recent Portraits and Other Paintings by Lilla Cabot Perry, Twentieth Century Club, Boston, Massachusetts, November 25–December 15, 1913, no. 2. [exh. cat.]

An Exhibition of Paintings by Lilla Cabot Perry, Guild of Boston Artists, Boston, Massachusetts, February 22–March 16, 1915, no. 21. [exh. cat.]

An Exhibition of Paintings by Lilla Cabot Perry, Braus Galleries, New York, New York, November 1922, no. 14.

A Memorial Exhibition of Paintings by Lilla Cabot Perry, Guild of Boston Artists, Boston, Massachusetts, March 5–17, 1934, no. 5. [exh. cat.]

Exhibition, Olin Library, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, November 7–December 6, 1937, no. 12.

Lilla Cabot Perry, Mongerson Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, October 12–November 30, 1984. [exh. cat.]

The Genius of the Fair Muse, Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, New York, April 1–May 23, 1987, no. 43. [exh. cat.]

Lilla Cabot Perry: An American Impressionist, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (organizer). Venue: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., September 28, 1990–January 6, 1991. [exh. cat.]

Un regard américain sur Paris (An American Glance at Paris), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 11–October 31, 1997.

Visages de l'Amérique: de George Washington à Marilyn Monroe (Faces of America: From George Washington to Marilyn Monroe), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004. [exh. cat.]

Twarze Ameryki: Portrety z kolekcji Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940 (Faces of America: Portraits from the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France and Miedzynarodowe Centrum Kultury (International Cultural Center), Crakow, Poland (organizers). Venue: International Cultural Center, Crakow, Poland, February 15–May 7, 2006. [exh. cat.]

Portrait of a Lady : peintures et photographies américaines en France, 1870–1915 (Portrait of a Lady: American Paintings and Photographs in France, 1870–1915), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France and Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France (organizers). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France, April 1–July 14, 2008; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, September 25, 2008–January 5, 2009. [exh. cat.]

Americans in Florence: Sargent and the American Impressionists, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi (organizer). Venue: Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy, March 2–July 15, 2012. [exh. cat].

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Published References

Ward, Lisa M. Lilla Cabot Perry. (exh. cat., Mongerson Gallery). Chicago, Illinois: Mongerson Gallery, 1984. Ill. p. 9 (black & white).

Martindale, Meredith. Lilla Cabot Perry: An American Impressionist. (exh. cat., National Museum of Women in the Arts). Washington, D.C.: National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1990. Text pp. 80, 155 (checklist); fig. 19, p. 84 (color).

Gomes, Rosalie. Impressions of Giverny: A Painter's Paradise 1883–1914. San Francisco, California: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1995. Text pp. 81, 115; pl. 53, p. 84 (color).

Reymond, Nathalie. Un regard américain sur Paris (An American Glance at Paris). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1997. Text p. 74; ill. p. 72 (color).

Lévy, Sophie, et al. Twarze Ameryki: Portrety z kolekcji Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940/Faces of America: Portraits from the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940. (exh. cat. International Cultural Center). Cracow, Poland: International Cultural Center, 2006. Ill. p. 99 (color).

Lecomte, Vanessa, editor. Portrait of a Lady : peintures de photographies américaines (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américaine Giverny and Musée des beaux-arts de Bordeaux). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2008. Text (checklist) p. 94.

Bardazzi, Francesca and Carlo Sisi, editors. Americans in Florence: Sargent and the American Impressionists. (exh. cat. Fondazione Plazzo Strozzi). Venice, Italy: Marsilio, 2012. Text, cat. no. 99, p. 237, ill. cat. no 99, p. 220 (color).

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