Dowager in a Wheelchair

Media - 1986.6.90 - SAAM-1986.6.90_4 - 135127
Copied Philip Evergood, Dowager in a Wheelchair, 1952, oil on fiberboard, 47 7836 in. (121.591.4 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.90

Artwork Details

Dowager in a Wheelchair
Not on view
47 7836 in. (121.591.4 cm.)
lower right in oil: Philip Evergood 52 frame verso lower center in crayon: 1712 frame verso top in crayon: H-95V/36x48 BVD.1-10 INV, 61 E 57. frame verso upper left in colored pencil: BOX 3-3 frame verso upper left in pencil: H-95 frame verso upper left in crayon: 54/44
Credit Line
Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation
Mediums Description
oil on fiberboard
  • Group
  • Cityscape — street
  • Figure group — female
  • State of being — disabled
  • Architecture — vehicle — taxi
  • Architecture Exterior
Object Number

Artwork Description

Evergood’s art reflected a deep commitment to social equality and sympathy for human frailty. Recollecting the genesis of Dowager in a Wheelchair, he wrote, “Once I saw a tragic old lady being wheeled on Madison Avenue. She was alive in spirit but her body was only half functioning. She wanted still to be young. A young, gentle, fascinatingly fresh companion was wheeling her. As I passed, spring was in the air, a delicate whiff of lilac perfume mixed with a faint background of crushed rose petals reached my nostril & then my brain. I was disturbed. I stopped when they’d passed and followed their progress through the crowds with my eyes. Taxis & cars were too noisy. I lost sight of them in a few moments. I went sadly on my way with a vivid memory which lingered on. I consider the painting to be one of the very best I ever painted.”

Modern Amerian Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection, 2014
Luce Center Label

Philip Evergood was a political radical who throughout his career sympathized with this country's less privileged citizens. But his sympathy also extended to those whose wealth could not shield them from the realities of life. In this painting, a dowager in an improbable hat and veil, her shrunken upper body at odds with swollen legs and ankles, gamely takes her daily promenade, even though a younger woman must wheel her around. The ravaged grande dame represents "a tragic old lady being wheeled on Madison Avenue" who, Evergood remembered, was "alive in spirit" even as her body betrayed her.



Media - 1986.6.100 - SAAM-1986.6.100_2 - 135134
Modern American Realism: Highlights from the Sara Roby Foundation Collection
October 20, 2018November 28, 2018
This exhibition presents some of the most treasured paintings and sculpture from SAAM’s permanent collection, including artworks by Will Barnet, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Edward Hopper, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, George Tooker, among others.