McLane and her husband were amongst the founders of the National Foundation of Portrait Painters. Her portraits live on as cherished time capsules to a long passed era of gentility. She went of to paint dynamic figurative works of size that display complexity and avant-garde color use. She and her husband spent their late years in New Canaan, Connecticut. They had heirs and the estate of the Jean McLane was divided and many of the works retained by the family.
According to Frederick Platt, "A knock at the door to the painter's Paris studio inspired this canvas-unusual for the normally resilient impressionist, who demonstrates the tangible properties in the layers of the caller's costume, the chair, and the empty hallway" (Jean MacLane, p. 8). Jean McLane was a highly respected portrait and figurative painter of the early 20th century. She is an early pioneer in terms of women entering into the arena of painting as more than a hobby and she worked and trained with the key figures of the time: Frank Duvenck, John Vanderpoel and William Merritt Chase. First she was a student of JohnVanderpoel at the Art Institute of Chicago. Then McLane was admired by the dedicated teacher and painter Frank Duveneck and received further instruction under William Merritt Chase, who was amongst the first to buy one of her paintings. She garnered a stunning number of prestigious awards in 1914 and was included along with Cecilia Beaux to be one of the artists commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to do portraits of World War I soldiers and statesmen.
The Visitor painted in 1907 is clearly a major work by McLane evident in the scale and compositional elements. The ingenious composition portrays a comely young woman knocking on the door to the artist's studio. It was an age old tradition going back to the Old Masters that an artist incorporate numerous ambitious elements into a painting to prove their technical prowess. In this case, McLane demonstrates this in the textured shawl, the satin gown, the creased glove and the leather and brass tacked chair. McLane was not want to choose risqué subject matter, and this painting stands as a statement piece that she could "paint" with the best of them. The face and hands have a naturalism that only someone highly proficient can achieve. For the viewer, the painting is a delight of details and sophisticated color. From a purely subject matter point of view it is an engaging painting and invites a fair amount of speculation as to who the visitor is in relationship to the artist. This is not a conventional portrait but belies an artist for whom capturing the person before them is an objective. There are only a handful of American women artists of this time period working at this level and McLane is an equal to Cecilia Beaux, Elizabeth Nourse and Jane Peterson.
Balogh Gallery, Charlottesville, Virginia
Christopher T.E. Rand
Private Collection, New Canaan, Connecticut
American Women Artists, 1830-1930, International Exhibition Foundation, Washington, D.C.
Platt, Frederick, Jean MacLane 1878-1964, 1984: Balogh Gallery, ill. p. 9