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Overview

This portrait by Cecilia Beaux portrays the artist's cousin, Sarah Allibone Leavitt, dressed in white with her black cat on her shoulder. Beaux was recognized not only for her bold painting technique, but also for her ability to imbue her female subjects with wit and intelligence, rendering them more than just mere objects of beauty. A student in Paris in the late 1880s, the artist was influenced by her firsthand exposure to French impressionism. Her light-filled palette and gestural style invite comparisons with many of her contemporaries, including William Merritt Chase, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt.

The sitter's white dress, for instance, evokes Whistler's infamous 1862 painting of Joanna Hiffernan, Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl (National Gallery of Art, Washington). The formal connection between the two paintings demonstrates Beaux's knowledge of Whistler's painting. Additionally, the direct gaze of the black cat perched on Sarah's shoulder references Edouard Manet's painting Olympia (1865, Musée d'Orsay, Paris), in which a similarly posed black cat sits at the foot of Olympia's bed. These connections suggest that Beaux intended to reveal more with this portrait than simply her mastery of painting technique. The enigmatic title of the painting may represent Manet's influence—Beaux's use of Spanish diminutives, Sarita for Sarah and Sita, meaning "little one," for the cat, acknowledges the late 19th-century popularity of Spanish painting, championed by Manet.   The present work is a replica of the original painted in 1893 and displayed in the 1895 Society of American Artists exhibition in New York. Before donating the original to the Musée de Luxembourg in Paris (now in the collection of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris), Beaux recorded that she made a second painting for her "own satisfaction when the original went to France for good."

Inscription

lower left: Cecilia Beaux

Provenance

Collection of the artist, New York; (Grand Central Art Galleries, New York); purchased 1923 by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by National Gallery of Art.

Exhibition History
1922
Probably Arden Gallery, New York, 1922.
1923
Exhibition of Eminent Women Painters, Plastic Club, Philadelphia, January 1923.
1923
Ninth Exhibition of Contemporary American Oil Paintings, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, December 1923-January 1924, no. 105, as Girl with Cat.
1935
An Exhibition of Paintings by Cecilia Beaux, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 1935-1936, no. 17.
1939
Loan Exhibition from the Corcoran Gallery of Art: Selected Group of Twenty American Painters, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, March-April 1939, unnumbered checklist.
1940
Modern Painting Isms and How They Grew, Baltimore Museum of Art, 1940, unnumbered checklist.
1955
The One Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1955, no. 134.
1963
The Romantic Century, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1963.
1965
Women Artists of America, 1707-1964, Newark Museum, 1965, unnumbered checklist.
1966
Past and Present: 250 Years of American Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, unpublished checklist.
1972
Women: A Historical Survey of Works by Women Artists, Salem Fine Arts Center, Winston Salem; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh,1972, no. 27.
1974
Cecilia Beaux: Portrait of an Artist, Museum of the Philadelphia Civic Center; Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1974-1975, no. 42.
1976
Women Artists: 1550–1950, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; University Art Museum, University of Texas at Austin; Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Brooklyn Museum, 1976-1977, no. 101.
1978
The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 26 April-16 July 1978, unnumbered catalogue.
1984
Woman, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, 1984, no. 49.
1995
Cecilia Beaux and the Art of Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, 1995-1996, no. 13.
1998
The Forty-fifth Biennial: The Corcoran Collects, 1907–1998, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998, unnumbered catalogue.
2002
Gilded Cage: Views of American Women, 1873–1921, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2002, unpublished checklist.
2003
The Impressionist Tradition in America, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2003-2004, unpublished checklist.
2005
Encouraging American Genius: Master Paintings from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 2005-2007, checklist no. 80.
2008
The American Evolution: A History through Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2008, unpublished checklist.
2009
American Paintings from the Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 6 June-18 October 2009, unpublished checklist.
2013
American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
Bibliography
n.d.
Correspondence between Erwin S. Barrie and C.Powell Minnigerode, 18, 21 December 1923; Correspondence between Cecilia Beaux and C.Powell Minnigerode, 11, 19, 28 June and 11 July 1935; Office of the Director/Correspondence Records; Corcoran Gallery of Art Archives.



n.d.
"Portraits by Cecilia Beaux in New York Loan Exhibition [exh. review]." 21 April, newspapar clipping; Cecilia Beaux Papers, reel 429, frame 334; Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
1923
"At the Corcoran Gallery." Boston Evening Transcript (29 December 1923): Book section: 8.
1923
Burroughs, Clyde H. "Director Burroughs Gives Impressions of Big Show." The Detroit News (30 December 1923): 12.
1923
D.G. "The Plastic Club, Philadelphia [exh. review]." Christian Science Monitor (23 January 1923): 6.
1923
Mechlin, Leila. "Notes of Art and Artists [exh.review]." Washington Star (16 December 1923): 2: 13.
1923
Mechlin, Leila. "Notes of Art and Artists." The Washington Star (23 December 1923):2: 20, repro.
1923
Mechlin, Leila. "The North Window." The Washington Post (20 December 1923): 6.
1923
Merrick, Lula. "In the World of Art exh. review]." New York Morning Telegraph (23 December 1923): 9.
1923
"The Corcoran Biennial Exhibition Opens To-Day in Washinton [exh. review]." New York World (16 Dcember 1923): 8: E.
1923
"The Gallery Buys 11 Pictures on Show." The Washington Evening Star (19 December 1923): 3.
1924
Flambeau, Viktor. "Public Votes This Week on Prize Picture: Corcoran Biennial Exhibition Visitors Willl Select Their Favorites." The Washington Herald (6 January 1924): March of Events section: 5.
1924
Mechlin, Leila. "Contemporary American Painting: Ninth Exhibition, Corcoran Gallery of Art [exh. review]." American Magazine of Art 15, no. 2 (February 1924): 67, 71, repro., 72.
1924
"Six Modern American Portrait Painters." Mentor 12, no. 9 (October 1924): 43, repro.
1930
Beaux, Cecilia. Background with Figures. New York, 1930: Opposite 88, repro.
1935
Cortissoz, Royal. "The Portraiture of Miss Cecilia Beaux [exh. review]." New York Herald Tribune (1 December 1935): 5: 10.
1935
Mechlin, Leila. "One of Events of Season [exh. review]." The Washington Star ( 24 November 1935): F: 4.
1939
Lewis, Elisabeth Ray. "Museum Treasure of the Week: The Corcoran Gallery Collection in Review: 'Contemporary Artists.'" The Washington Post (17 September 1939): A: 5.
1939
Mechlin, Leila. "Corcoran Gellry of Art: Painting by Ceicila Beaux Now on View." The Washington Star (31 December 1939): E: 5.
1942
"Art Exhibits." This Week in the Nation's Capital 20, no. 33 (9 August 1942): 6, repro.
1942
Berryman, Florence S. "Great Artists Lately Deceased." Washington Star (4 October 1942): E: 5.
1942
"Cecilia Beaux Dies; A Portrait Artist." The New York Times (18 September 1942): 21
1942
"Cecilia Beaux Dies, Noted Painter, is Dead at 87." The New York Herald Tribune (18 September 1942): 18.
1942
"Cecilia Beaux." The Washington Evening Star (19 September 1942): A: 8.
1947
Corcoran Gallery of Art. Handbook of the American Paintings in the Collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1947: 61.
1955
Drinker, Henry S. The Paintings and Drawings of Cecilia Beaux. Philadelphia, 1955: 96, 97, repro., 98.
1972
Phillips, Dorothy W. "Beauty in Years Past: A Fascintating Account of how Artists Perceived Feminine Good Looks at the Turn of the Century." National Retired Teachers Association (May/June 1972): 20, inside back cover.
1972
Price, Vincent. The Vincent Price Treasury of American Art. Waukesha, Wisconsin, 1972: 308, repro.
1973
Phillips, Dorothy W. A Catalogue of the Collection of American Paintings in the Corcoran Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, D.C., 1973: 2:58, repro., 59.
1974
Hill, Frederick D. "Cecilia Beaux, The Grande Dame of American Portraiture." Magazine Antiques 105, no. 1 (January 1974): 164, repro.
1975
Evans, Dorinda. "Cecilia Beaux, Portraits [exh. review]." American Art Review 2, no. 1 (January-February 1975): 101, repro.
1975
Stein, Judith E. "Profile of Cecilia Beaux [exh. review]." The Feminist Art Journal 4, no. 4 (Winter 1975-76): 27, repro., 29.
1977
Hughes, Robert. "Rediscovered- Women Painters [exh. review]." Time 109, no. 2 (10 January 1977): 60, 62, repro.
1979
Muchnic, Suzanne. "Stuffers for Artists' Yule Stockings." Los Angeles Times (23 December 1979): 13.
1980
Collins, Amy Fine. American Impressionism. New York, 1980: 26, 27, repro.
1984
Corcoran Gallery of Art. American Painting: The Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1984: 24, 25, repro.
1987
Zoccoli, Franca. Dall'ago Al Pennello: Storia delle Artiste Americane. Urbino, Italy, 1987: 73, 160, repro.
1990
Tappert, Tara and Matthew Mattiello. "Cecilia Beaux: The Strength of Character." Victoria 4, no. 3 (March 1990): 54, 55, repro.
1995
May, Stephen. "Cecilia Beaux: Portrait of the Gilded Age [exh. review]." American Art Quarterly 12, no. 4 (Fall 1995): 36.
1995
May, Stephen. "Cecilia Beaux: The Art of Portraiture [exh. review]." Antiques and the Arts Weekly ( 8 December 1995): 69, repro., 70.
1996
Tappert, Tara Leigh. "Artistic Ambitions: Cecilia Beaux in Philadelphia." Pennsylvania Heritage 22, no. 1 (Winter 1996): 27, repro.
1998
Burchard, Hank. "Corcoran Biennial: A Retreat in Reverse [exh. review]." The Washington Post (7 August 1998): N: 55.
1998
Dorsey, John. "Framing the Century: Corcoran Gallery Highlights the Best Works from Its Forty-four Biennials [exh. review]." Baltimore Sun (3 September 1998): F: 3.
1998
Faletti, Rina C. "Peering Out from the Eyes of an Other: Cecilia Beaux and her Portraits of Women." Unpublished graduate seminar paper, American Univeristy, Washington, D.C., 1999: 13.
1998
Lewis, Jo Ann. "The Corcoran Biennial: Delivery on Collection [exh. review]." Washington Post (19 July 1998): G: 1, repro.
2000
Cash, Sarah, and Terrie Sultan. American Treasures of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. New York, 2000: 157, repro.
2000
Regenbogen, Lucian S. 31 Grandes Dames de la Peinture Mordene Bucarest, 2000: 157, repro.
2003
Kilian, Michael. "A Look at Impressionism in America [exh. review]." Chicago Tribune (28 September 2003): 4.
2003
Smith, Roberta. "Washington's Museum Traverses Miles and Eras." The New York Times (22 August 2003): B: 31.
2007
Yount, Sylvia and Kevin Sharp, Nina Auerbach, Mark Bckrath. Cecilia Beaux: American Figure Painter. Exh. cat. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 2007: 32-34, 53, no. 146, 69, 81, 93.
2008
Gopnik, Blake. "Wide Angle: How Two Women Painted Themselves Out of the Corner [exh. reivew]." The Washington Post (9 March 2008): Style and Art: 9.
2009
Burns, Sarah, and John Davis. American Art to 1900: A Documentary History. Los Angeles, 2009: 746, repro.
2011
Wingate, Jennifer. "Cecilia Beaux, "Sita and Sarita." In Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945. Edited by Sarah Cash. Washington, 2011: 230-231, 281, repro.