Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Motion Picture

Margaret Foster Richardson  "A Motion Picture (self-portrait)"  1912  
I've loved this piece for many decades. It is in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and when I was a student there I stood before "Miss Margaret" in awe, time and time again. She seemed to be breathing. I saw it again in the flesh a couple years ago at PAFA's wonderful show on self-portraiture called Narcissus in the Studio. You can't really see this painting too often IMHO! 

However, for such a knock-it-out-of-the-park work of art, there is not much biographical information readily available on its maker, Margaret Foster Richardson. She was an American, her dates are 1881-1945, and from what I can see in auction records it appears she worked mainly as a portrait painter.  She attended the MFA Boston school from 1905 to 1908, where she was a student of Edmund TarbellI found one slight and inconclusive mention of her in a long and rambling article on women artists of the Boston School. 

From this painting we can infer that she had excellent technical ability, a keen sense of humor and was interested in the technological advances of her time (the motion picture industry was burgeoning.) She also gives the impression of being a down to earth person, someone who didn't mind depicting herself in her shapeless working smock, with glasses glinting, hair messy and nose unpowdered.  (I really like that about her.) Anyway, if anyone reading this has more background information on Margaret Foster Richardson, please share!


Jane said...

Have always loved this painting.

Unknown said...

I've never seen this before, Nancy, but I now consider Margaret to be a friend! I can see the influence of her time in the brushstokes, but that unflinching look and forward motion is as modern as today! Painted before she could vote! You go, Margaret!
Mara Buck

Eliza Auth said...

This painting has always been one of my favorites, too.
There's such an incredible feeling of energy, motion and passion. I used to stand in front of this piece at PAFA, trying to figure out how Richardson accomplished this.

Belinda Del Pesco said...

Thanks for the introduction to this wonderful artist. What an astoundingly good self portrait. She raises the bar for the rest of us, and she did it with so many more restrictions than we've had in these times. Amazing.

Joy Thomas said...

I love this's perfect.

Joy Thomas said...

I love this is perfect!

John Gillis said...

Here's a statement about Richardson from the National Gallery of Art (DC):

Margaret Foster Richardson, born in Winnetka, Illinois, received her art education in the east. After studying painting at the Massachusetts State Normal Art School in Boston from 1900 to 1905 with Joseph DeCamp and Ernest L. Major, she studied for two years with the painter Edmund C. Tarbell at the Boston Museum School. Her first recognition came with the Harris bronze medal and prize ($300) at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1911, followed by the Maynard portrait prize at the National Academy of Design two years later...[in 1913] she departed on her own study tour of the art galleries of Europe -- starting in Spain, continuing to Italy, Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France, and concluding in England.