Untitled Essay, Research Paper
Title of Paper : fricke collection
Grade Received on Report : B
The Fricke Collection
Lady Meux v. Frances Duncombe
Donated by the Fricke family is a collection housed on fifth avenue, ranging from sculptures and
paintings, to furniture of renowned artists. Paintings in particular, such as, Whistler’s, Lady Meux and
Gainsborough’s, Frances Duncombe, are classic examples of subtle yet provocative feminist portrayals. The
initial impact of these illustrations is a combination of the surface imagery and the abstract artistic message
conveying politics, religion or personal bias. Artist’s attention to detail on these portrait’s surface, captures
likeness but focuses setting through richness of color and poise into character personality. When
contrasting and comparing two paintings of distinct styles of select eras, conflicting perceptions are created.
Whistler’s, Lady Meux and Gainsborough’s Frances Duncombe both exhibit similar themes however were
dissimilar in character composure, panoramic setting, and mood representation.
In contrasting the portraits, confrontational and vulnerable personalities are clearly visible. These
separate presentations are outlined through Whistler’s Lady Meux’s determined expression and
Gainsborough’s Frances Duncombes subtle sidelong distracted look. Lady Meux exhibits simple
confidence and independence in her concrete and firm stance, as opposed to Duncombe’s fragile and
elegant unsteady footing. Gainsborough captures a complacent vulnerability perhaps suggesting
innocence. Whistler on the other hand, illustrates a more dramatic impact through the direct gaze of Lady
Meux’s expressive eyes which both dare and humble the viewer. Both artists, conveniently shape the
central figures by positioning them in creative scenery.
In each instance, the artist chooses a particular backdrop to heighten or diminish the central figure.
The scenery casts certain illusionistic differences that create the sensation of depth and solidarity. Lady
Meux commands attention as her profile encourages the viewer to step closer and absorb the scene
intimately. This portrait uses opaque colors of greys and pinks to bring out the subject’s features, however
the scope casts a dreariness about the piece. In Frances Duncombe, Gainsborough is careful in surrounding
her in an arboreal landscape, due to the size of the natural scene, the central figure is amplified. The
shadows in the piece engulf the regal subject, perhaps alluding to her place in society, as a solitary figure in
an ambiguous or precarious state. The obscured details of the trees, sunset, and faded classical architecture
seem to melt against Duncombe. The shadowed effect forces the viewer to step back a sufficient distance
to view the painting in it’!
s entirety. The artist purposely decreases Frances Duncombe’s features as if he intended to enhance the
details of her ornate costume instead of the subject herself.
In addition to the backdrop, the artist draws focus thru light and darkness to impress a mood. Both
pieces shroud each figure in obscure shadowy scenes but draw light from the model itself. Whistler, chose
colors such as grey, pink, and flat white, that downplays the heightened glow of her outfit. Gainsborough’s
piece illustrates ashen browns, olives, creams and azure blues in earthy tones to create a sense of mystery.
This portrait, unlike Whistler’s Lady Meux, uses light tones to capture Frances Duncombe’s milky white
flesh. This central figure is ghostly in complection as opposed to Whistler’s painting. Lady Meux appears
healthy in comparison, and shifts the mood by adding a slight pouty expression.
In short, these artists transcend our response into intense contrasting manipulations. Each piece
shares like and contrasting elements, either in Lady Meux’s well endowed form to Duncombes delicate
figure or the satin pink tresses to the satin teal folds of Duncombe’s costume. Both artists incorporate the
abstract as well as shadow and light that either enhances or detracts the femme fatale. On close
examination, each work exhibits calculated strokes that deliver a balanced arrangement of color variations.
The significance of the subject’s status quo, is hinted by each artist, however the possibilities for
interpretations are endless, be it the representation of female appreciation or contrasting inferior bias. In all
instances, the viewer takes with him a primal effect that will continue to last.