Born in Maine, Vinton was raised in Chicago and moved to Boston in 1861. He is associated with the Boston School of painting. He studied art at the Lowell Institute while supporting himself working as a bookkeeper. His teacher, William Rimmer, prompted him to submit his artwork to the Boston Advertiser. He opened a portrait studio in Boston in 1878; after enough success and innumerable commissions, he was able to travel to Europe for a year and a half. He visited the Netherlands, France, and Germany, and studied under Léon Bonnat, Frank Duveneck, and Jean-Paul Laurens. He first exhibited one of his portraits at the National Academy in 1880, and continued to do so annually until 1883, when unrest at the institution forced him to resign. That same year, he married his wife, Annie M. Pierce, who serves as the subject for many of his most famous portraits. Vinton returned to the Academy in 1884, by submitting his first-ever landscape, and was elected a full-time member in 1891. Following his death, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, held a retrospective of Vinton’s portraits and landscapes in 1911.
With its distinct Spanish influence, Portrait with Yellow Shawl and Fan was undoubtedly inspired by Frederic Porter Vinton’s European travels, and likely completed while he was abroad in the 1880s. Here, Vinton renders his female subject, who may be either a foreign native or Vinton’s own wife, in the traditional Spanish dress of his time, complete with a bolero hat, fan, and embroidered shawl. She gazes coyly at some indeterminate object in the distance, opening her fan wide in a gesture that ladies and gentleman of fin-de-siècle Europe would have understood to mean “wait for me,” and perhaps indicating her interest in a potential suitor. Vinton embarked on several trips to Europe—to Spain in 1882 with William Merritt Chase and Robert Blum, and to several different countries in 1888 following his marriage—which provided inspiration for a renewed style and subject matter. While in Spain with Chase and Blum, the three artists visited Madrid and Toledo; there, Vinton studied the masterfully tenebrous portraits of Velázquez, an influence that can be seen in Portrait with Yellow Shawl and Fan. Vinton’s employment of chiaraoscuro and reliance on a dramatic palette of crimson and ochre betray the degree to which the artist was inspired by the Spanish master.
Skinner Inc. Auctioneers, 11 September 1992, lot 167
Private Collection, Connecticut