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The Artistic Heritage of Modena: Wounded Art


Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon (Virginia Purdy, died 1919)

Anders Zorn (Swedish, Mora 1860–1920 Mora)

Oil on canvas
67 1/4 x 42 1/2 in. (170.8 x 108 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon, in memory of her husband, 1917
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Like the other portraitists whose works hang on this wall, Zorn acquired an international clientele that included prominent Americans—from socialites to financiers and presidents. He painted this portrait in 1897 during his second visit to America. Mrs. Bacon, the wife of the president of B & O Southwestern Railroad, is depicted with broad, fluid brushwork—a nod to Impressionism—that suggests a spontaneous moment. According to the sitter's husband, both Sargent and Whistler admired this portrait when it was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1897.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Zorn / 1897

  • Provenance

    the sitter's brother-in-law, Edward Rathbone Bacon, New York (1897–d. 1915); the sitter, Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon, New York (1915–17)

  • Exhibition History

    Paris. Salon. April 24–?, 1897, no. 1271 (as "Portrait de Mme. B.").

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "La Belle Époque," December 6, 1982–September 4, 1983, unnum. checklist.

    Birmingham, Ala. Birmingham Museum of Art. "Zorn: Paintings, Graphics, and Sculpture," March 27–June 6, 1986, no. 13.

    Memphis, Tenn. Dixon Gallery and Gardens. "Zorn: Paintings, Graphics, and Sculpture," June 15–August 10, 1986, no. 13.

    St. Petersburg, Fla. Museum of Fine Arts. "Zorn: Paintings, Graphics, and Sculpture," September 14–October 26, 1986, no. 13.

    Boston. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. "Anders Zorn: A European Artist Seduces America," February 28–May 13, 2013, no. 3.

  • References

    James B. Townsend and W. Stanton Howard. Memorial Catalogue of Paintings By Old and Modern Masters Collected by Edward R. Bacon. New York, 1919, pp. xi, 72, no. 83, ill.

    Karl Asplund. Anders Zorn: His Life and Work. London, 1921, p. 44.

    Douglas K. S. Hyland. Zorn: Paintings, Graphics, and Sculpture. Exh. cat., Birmingham Museum of Art. Birmingham, Ala., 1986, pp. 32–33, 82, no. 13, colorpl. VI, writes of a supposed private competition held by Zorn and Sargent in which this portrait took first prize.

    Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. Från två hav Zorn och Sorolla. Exh. cat., Nationalmuseum. Stockholm, 1991, p. 31, ill.

    Hans Henrik Brummer. Till ögats fröjd och nationens förgyllning: Anders Zorn. Stockholm, 1994, pp. 203–4, 216, 299, 329 n.14, discusses the supposed private competition held by Zorn and Sargent in which this picture won first prize and argues that with it, Zorn emerged as a true rival of Sargent in the field of society portraiture; quotes a letter to Zorn from the sitter's brother-in-law and commissioner of the portrait, Edward Bacon, on the reception of it and Zorn's portrait of himself (MMA 19.112) at the 1897 Salon.

    Carlos Reyero in Joaquín Sorolla, 1863–1923. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2009, p. 169.

  • Notes

    There is a study for the painting in red pencil on tan paper, measuring 25.6 x 18.8 cm, in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (image in Department of European Paintings files).

    A half-length portrait of the sitter by Zorn, executed in Paris in 1891—two years before the artist's first trip to America—is now in a private collection [see Ref. Brummer 1994, p. 202]; it formerly belonged to Zorn's great American patron, Charles Deering of Evanston, who lent it to the Zorn exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1924.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History