511 Projects (New York) presents the exhibition, Guy Pène du Bois: The Artist and His Models, which will be on view, March 5th to April 13th, at the gallery in Chelsea.
Showing over forty artworks, the exhibition poses the question: Who (or what) is an artist’s model? For Pène du Bois the answer is complex. As a journalist, art critic, and outgoing and highly sociably-accepted personage, he perhaps had access to more differing types of models than did many artists. The range of people who modeled for him seems to have been limitless. Knowing that very little has been written, much less exhibited, about artists’ models unless they were famous themselves (Madonna comes to mind) or the partners of famous artists (Manet, Picasso, chief among them), we decided to use Pène du Bois’s body of work as a springboard for exploring the question of who models for artists, what were their names and identities, and how did they become the often unknown or unidentified subjects of art’s history?
Models were essential to Pène du Bois’s art-making. He wrote about them, appreciated them, could describe in words and in paint or ink, their bodies as well as their personalities. He made them come alive as individuals and also as recognizable “types.” He used models from his own social life for both his satirical scenes of the well-to-do in America’s roaring twenties (and tamer thirties) and for his portraits made throughout his career of women and men from a myriad of backgrounds.
Some were family and friends or the friends of family and friends or the employees of family and friends; some were professional working models, paid to pose; some were women and men who had other jobs but modeled freelance to earn extra money; some were patrons who commissioned the artist to paint themselves, spouses or children; some were the artist’s students, either from his private classes or from the Art Students League, where he often taught; some were performers and celebrities he had interviewed or reviewed, or prostitutes, lawyers and judges he observed as a young reporter covering police and courts in Lower Manhattan for the New York American or famous literary figures in his illustrations for The Saturday Review of Literature. When he was, as he wrote, “in desperate need for a model,” he grudgingly painted himself. The range of models available to him seemed limitless. And yet many of them remain unidentified, nameless participants in twentieth-century art history.
The exhibition will show artworks from Pène du Bois’s career, including groupings of works that used his favorite models as subjects: Peruvian Woman (1941), a working model, unidentified by name though posed for three paintings and one drawing; Typist (1942), Joan Karges Hogg, an art student from a prominent mid-western family who became a lifelong friend and appears both clothed and nude in other paintings by the artist; Stephanie (1941), identified only by first name in a nude pastel, but appearing, nameless in major portraits, Girl in Pink Blouse (n.d.) and. Head with Curled Bangs (n.d.); and Bal Masque (1934), two large-sized mural paintings made by Pène du Bois for The Jumble Shop nightclub and restaurant in Greenwich Village; and War Thoughts (1953), a grudgingly painted self-portrait of the artist and a death mask of his wife Floy.
Guy Pène du Bois: The Artist and His Models will be on view from March 5 - April 13, 2019, with an opening reception on Tuesday, March 5, from 6-8 pm. At the gallery, we will reinvigorate what used to be the traditional manner in which loose drawings were displayed — on a large table with pairs of white cotton gloves nearby. Unframed drawings and sketches by the artist will available for viewers to examine. The show will be curated by Mara Miller and Ashley Ouderkirk. A scholarly essay will accompany the show. More info: