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Joseph DeCamp

Born: 1858, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America
Died: 1923, Boca Grande, Florida, United States of America

The Violinist
c. 1902

Oil on canvas
Overall: 36 1/2 x 28 1/4in. (92.7 x 71.8cm)
Frame: 45 × 37 1/8 × 2 1/2in. (114.3 × 94.3 × 6.4cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.43
Signed: Lower left: Joseph DeCamp
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

In The Violinist by Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, a young woman, elegantly attired in evening dress, plays a violin in a shadowy domestic interior as light floods in from a curtained window on the back wall. The model’s graceful profile, echoed in the curves of a ceramic jar placed on the deep windowsill, is set off by the rigid rectilinear forms surrounding her: the open window and its companion with lowered blind; a small, square framed picture high on the wall between them; and a green upholstered chair set against the wall, on which a red garment is casually draped. The model, her face obscured by the glare of incoming daylight, is absorbed in playing, apparently unaware of artist or viewer; near the right side of the image, the vertical edge of a decorated screen further suggests the private nature of the scene, glimpsed as if by intrusion. Woman, objects, and setting are painted with an equal softness and united by a uniform gray tone that captures the effect of blinding light muting an onlooker’s perception of a darkened interior.

Beginning around 1900, DeCamp departed from landscape painting, with which he had made a name for himself in the previous decade, and began to focus on interior, domestic images featuring solitary women reading, playing musical instruments, contemplating beautiful decorative objects, or merely caught in moments of reverie. Such subjects were part of a larger trend among American artists, many of them influenced by impressionism’s privileging of contemporary, domestic subjects and by the portrayals of women as decorative objects in the works of such pioneering painters as the American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler. Along with other members of the so-called Boston school, a small group of Boston-based impressionist painters, DeCamp also looked to the example of Dutch master Jan Vermeer (1632–1675), whose exquisite interior scenes of everyday life influenced the Boston school’s preference for muted colors, velvety surface effects, dramatic contrasts of light and shadow, and air of composed stillness and ethereal refinement.

The Chinese jar and Japanese screen in The Violinist are important elements in the composition not only visually but as markers of sophisticated taste among DeCamp’s contemporaries. Japanese art objects, in particular, flooded European and American markets following the opening of trade between Japan and the west in the 1850s, and Boston became a major center for the collecting and appreciation of all things Japanese. DeCamp and other members of the Boston school were deeply influenced by “Japanism,” which they demonstrated not only by showing Japanese objects in their paintings but by organizing their compositions according to such features of Japanese aesthetics as flattened space, asymmetry, and decorative arrangements disassociated from narrative content. The Violinist demonstrates the application of such artistic ideas to the concern with light so central to impressionism, and to the subject matter of private, domestic interiors that especially motivated DeCamp and his fellow painters in Boston.

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Provenance

The artist
Descended in family (to granddaughter of artist)
Adelson Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1996
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

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Exhibition History

American Impressionism: Boston, New York, Paris, Adelson Galleries, Inc., New York, New York (organizer). Venue: Adelson Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, November 15–December 17, 1994. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 1999.

Figures and Forms: Selections from the Terra Foundation for the Arts, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 9–July 9, 2000.

Héroïque et le quotidien: les artistes américains, 1820–1920 (The Extraordinary and the Everyday: American Perspectives, 1820–1920), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 30, 2001. [exh. cat.]

Copley to Cassatt: Masterworks from the Terra Collection, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut and Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, September 5–December 7, 2003.

Le Temps des loisirs : peintures américaines (At Leisure: American Paintings), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, July 15–October 31, 2007.

Le Temps des loisirs : peintures américaines (At Leisure: American Paintings), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2008.,

In Concert!: Musical Instruments between the 1860s and the 1910s (fr: Tintamarre ! Instruments de musique dans l'art, 1860-1910), Musée des impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée des impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny , France, March 24–July 2, 2017. [exh. cat., in French]

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Published References

American Impressionism: Boston, New York, Paris. (exh. cat., Adelson Galleries, Inc.). New York: Adelson Galleries, Inc, 1994. No. 6.

Buckley, Laurene. Joseph DeCamp: Master Painter of the Boston School. (exh. cat., Adelson Galleries, Inc.) Munich, Germany: Prestel-Verlag, 1995. Text p. 102; pl. 27, p. 110 (color).

The Violinist, Joseph Rodefer DeCamp. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 1999. Ill. (black & white).

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