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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: 20th century: A Gentlewoman
A Gentlewoman

A Gentlewoman
J. Alden Weir
oil on canvas
30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans

In A Gentlewoman, J. Alden Weir depicted a well-dressed young woman in a moment of personal reflection. She rests lightly on a chair with her eyes cast downward, completely unaware of the viewer. A contemporary critic praised this woman for her "mixture of sturdiness and charm," qualities valued in turn-of-the-century gentlewomen. In the early twentieth century, modernization brought on by steam power and railroads caused feelings of anxiety among many Americans. To help alleviate such feelings, artists created images like these of quiet interior scenes, a visually soothing antidote to an unquiet age.

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