Edith Mitchill Prellwitz American
This early work by Edith Mitchill (later Prellwitz) is a remarkable example of her painterly talent and vision while studying at New York’s Art Students League, where she was elected Women’s Vice President in 1888. A student of Kenyon Cox, William Merritt Chase, and George de Forest Brush, Mitchill would go on to work as primarily a portraitist and figure painter. This rare industrial scene—likely inspired by the French Impressionists, especially Claude Monet and his train series--is painted out of doors with an on-the-spot immediacy and energy that reveals a different side to her art. The experimental calligraphic brushwork and pastel-like surface suggests Mitchill’s early talent for texture and color. (At this time, she also served a brief apprentice as a glass cutter for Tiffany Glass Company.) Anticipating the kind of New York subjects associated with the all-male Ashcan group decades later, Mitchill’s striking composition is a highly distinctive work—especially for a young woman—in the context of 1880s American production. The subject is thought to be a Forney locomotive on the Third Avenue El, a line established in 1878 and in use until 1950, the last elevated train to operate in Manhattan.