Whether working on a portrait, an Orientalist picture or a genre scene with French peasants, Pearce was a superior draftsman as stated by Mary Lublin in the catalogue A Rare Elegance: The Paintings of Charles Sprague Pearce: "He became recognized both in America and abroad for his sophisticated technique, with its luminous palette and exquisite stroke, and for his sense of beauty and artistic control." All of these qualities can be seen not only in his completed works but even in the simplest of studies, such as this work.
Though Charles Sprague Pearce lived abroad most his life and married a French woman, he still connected with Americans. He became friends with expatriate artists like Paul Wayland Bartlett, the successful sculptor. Bartlett and Pearce actually exchanged a portrait and cast bronze of each other. Their friendship was strong and when the two men got married, their wives became friends as well.
Charles Sprague Pearce is one of our great American expatriate artists. His Visage is a fascinating work whose inspiration we believe may have been influenced by the French Symbolist artists of the late 1800's. It has been noted that Pearce did a series of portraits defined by "slashing brushwork". He was a highly academic artist but not overly experimental with styles of painting. This work is an interesting deviation in terms of brushwork and is avant-garde in its use of red strokes of paint in unexpected areas. The Symbolist and Divisionist movements experimented with this type color theory. The model may be his wife but the work is not in the realm of portraiture. The design of the face is integrated with that of the background and the haunting and direct gaze of the woman is mysterious and is the real intent of the work.
Estate of the Artist
Borghi & Co., New York