American, (1875-1913)
"Woman Playing a Guitar," 1901
oil on canvas
signed and dated upper left "Susan Watkins, 1901"

  • Provenance: Private Collection, New York; A Florida estate.
    Susan Watkins was born in California in 1875. In 1890 her father was hired as an editor for the New York Sun and the family moved to New York City. Watkins' wealthy parents encouraged her to pursue painting and she studied at the Art Students League from 1893-1896 at a time when William Merritt Chase and Kenyon Cox were on the faculty.

    Shortly after her father's death in 1896, Watkins moved with her mother to Paris. The pair lived in France for the next fourteen years. In Paris, Watkins continued to study painting with Raphael Collin a disciple of William Bouguereau and Alexandre Cabanel. In Collin's studio, Watkins learned the French academic style and plein air painting, a technique she would return to in many Parisian scenes.

    In addition to her work in Collin's studio, Watkins was undoubtedly exposed to the works of the European Old Masters. As is evident in the present lot, she was impressed by the 17th century Dutch masters and emulated their tonal qualities and subjects in many of her paintings. A photograph of Watkins seated in front of the present lot indicates that she felt this painting was representative of her work and chose to include it in her formal artist's portrait. In 1901, Watkins was likely seated in her Paris studio.

    In 1899, Watkins begin to exhibit both portraits and genre scenes at the Paris Salon with favorable critical reception. By 1910, Watkins had returned to New York with an international reputation as a high-society portrait artist, a painter of genre scenes and a gifted landscape artist. She won the Julia A. Shaw Memorial Prize at the National Academy of Design and in 1912 was elected as an associate member.

    Sadly, that same year, Watkins became ill. She died at just thirty-seven years old most likely from cancer. A year after her death William Merritt Chase painted a full-length portrait of her which is now at the Chrysler Museum of Art (object number 46.76.159). The portrait, likely done in Watkins' studio, depicts her seated wearing an evening gown. The vase behind her is filled with paint brushes and in her hands, she holds an engraving done after one of her most successful paintings.

    In a letter from Anna Chase, wife of William Merritt Chase, to Susan Watkins, Anna remarked that her husband considered Watkins "the best woman painter living." Chase's portrait of Watkins is a testament to the respect and esteem he held for his young friend. The Chrysler Museum is home to numerous works by Watkins donated by her husband.

    Framed dimensions: 35 x 39 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches

    Tags: woman artist, female artist, oil painting, William Merritt Chase student, listed artist, 20th century, ex-patriot
  • Dimensions: 25 x 30 inches
  • Artist Name: SUSAN WATKINS
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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by Shannon's
October 28, 2021 6:00 PM EDT
Milford, CT, US

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