Artwork of the Week: October 18, 2021
Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919), Anna on the Balcony of Duveneck’s Studio, 1883, oil on canvas, 77 x 47 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
Alden Weir married his painting student, Anna Dwight Baker, in New York City in 1883. They honeymooned in Europe, and this portrait was painted in American artist Frank Duveneck’s studio in Venice. As MOA Curator of American Art, Dr. Kenneth Hartvigsen observed, this portrait “reflects both a precedent in Manet’s stark style of portraiture, and Weir’s own striving for his own contemporary technique.” Is there an austerity of emotion, seemingly withheld between husband and wife—painter and model? Or is the Anna just a little blasé about gentile European travel, while still getting to know her newfound husband? Her lauded beauty isn’t the strongest feature of this portrait—indeed, the sobriety of her manner sadly presages her early demise following complications of the birth of her fourth child. It is cold comfort that she remains eternally young in this compelling, enigmatic portrait.