Weir stands as one of America’s prominent and highly recognized American Impressionists. He was a close friend of John Henry Twachtman, Child Hassam and Emil Carlsen. He is known for soft impressionist Connecticut landscape paintings and for his figural works which are quiet and elegant in nature. While he is historically important and is on the avant-garde and early side of our impressionist movement, he has not achieved some of the commercial success that Twachtman and Hassam have seen in the marketplace. The answers are found on his canvases, and this lack of commercial success affords astute and sophisticated buyers with great opportunities, if his works appeal to them.
An American Girl is a candid portrait painted with an artistically experimental technique. It is candid in that the girl is unabashedly facing the viewer, without artifice or further compositional device. She is staring directly at the viewer in an engaging, albeit resolute and self-assured manner. It is artistically experimental in that Weir is utilizing a difficult technique of thickly and finely applied strokes of paint that are not conducive to conveying flesh. Treating the face, hair and dress in this manner makes for interesting textural plays and diverts the viewer away from just viewing this painting as a simple portrait. The signature part characteristic of the work is the quiet and carefully constrained color palette. Weir is noted for working within subtle palettes and his works, whether landscape or portrait, are elegant, understated, poetic and refined. This quiet approach has led to Weir’s price points often being well below Twachtman and Hassams. An American Girl is a perfect example of a successful and piquing figurative work by Weir which requires thoughtful observation but once such scrutiny has been done, the work elevates in stature and affords more appreciation.
This painting of An American Girl was also pictured in the October 2009 issue of The Art Newspaper for an article regarding Museums and the ethics and issues surrounding their de-accessioning such works as this example. It is one of the more pertinent and compelling discussions in the art market today. It has come to a point where museums are rotating out and acquiring works in a way that reflects the inventory changes of a gallery. The positive side is that collectors are availed works that would normally remain unseen in these museum collections. The negative side is that museums are under pressure to produce and to display only “commercially blockbuster” works. Consequently, rich collections that properly educate and which contain works that are intrinsic to artistic movements and history are often compromised due to policies of de-accessioning.
Montross Gallery, 1912 (acquired directly from the artist)
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1912
John Levy Galleries, 1925 (acquired from the above)
William T. Cresmer, 1925
Private Collection, gift from the above, 1951
De-accessioned from the Art Institute of Chicago
Private Collection, Newtown, Connecticut
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Julien Alden Weir, 1924
Duncan Phillips, et at, Julian Alden Weir, An Appreciation of his Life and Works, New York, 1922, p. 137
Doreen Bolger Burke, J. Alden Weir: An American Impressionist, New York, 1983, no. 6.30, p. 245, illustrated p. 249