A founding member of the group of artists known as the Ten American Painters, Joseph DeCamp was one of the leading figures of American Impressionism and the Boston art scene in the early decades of the twentieth century. The Seamstress, an example of DeCamp's mature style, masterfully balances description and mood, solid modeling and ethereal effect, immediacy and extended looking. DeCamp completed the painting only when specific weather and light conditions prevailed, explaining that he needed a "couple of grey days [to] turn the trick." The result is a painting that flickers with differing textures –impasto (thickly-applied paint) next to fine brushstrokes – and luminous shades of white and gray, from the ruffled curtains and the glimmer of the outside seen through the window to the simple blouse of the seamstress and mottled reflections on the table.
DeCamp's The Seamstress portrays a subject well known to the Boston School: sun-dappled interiors with women by windows offered the artists a way to experiment with light and color. These domestic vignettes of women engaged in the quotidian—performing household chores, reading, or absorbed in other forms of leisure – not only recall the quiet, still, interiors of the seventeenth-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer but also suggest a nostalgic set of attitudes and beliefs toward women that was losing its foothold in the twentieth century as more and more women entered the workforce.
upper left: JOSEPH-DE-CAMP-1916
Purchased 1916 from the artist by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- Sixth Exhibition: Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 17 December 1916 - 21 January 1917, no. 90.
- Memorial Exhibition of the Work of Joseph Rodefer De Camp, St. Botolph Club, Boston, 7 -26 January 1924, no. 3.
- Thirty-second Annual Exhibition of American Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, 23 May - 31 July 1925, no. 1.
- Loan, Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, 15 June - November 1950.
- Corcoran [The American Genius], Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 24 January - 4 April 1976, no checklist.
- American Impressionism, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle; Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, University of California at Los Angeles; Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 1 July - 31 August, 1980, unnumbered checklist.
- The Bostonians: Painters of an Elegant Age, 1870-1930, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Denver Art Museum; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, 1986-1987, no. 64.
- Triumph of Color and Light: Ohio Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, Columbus Museum of Art; Springfield Museum of Art; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, 1994-1995, unnumbered catalogue (shown only in Youngstown).
- The Forty-fifth Biennial: The Corcoran Collects 1907-1998, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 17 July - 29 September 1998, unnumbered checklist.
- American Impressionism: Selections from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Strathmore Hall Arts Center, North Bethesda, Maryland, 11 September - 8 November 1999, unnumbered catalogue.
- The Gilded Cage: Views of American Women, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 13 July - 27 August 2002, unpublished checklist.
- The Impressionist Tradition in America, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 19 July 2003 - 18 October 2004, unpublished checklist.
- 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. 73.
- The American Evolution: A History through Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1 March - 27 July 2008, unpublished checklist.
- Americans in Florence: Sargent and the American Impressionists, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, 3 March - 15 July 2012, no. 86.
- American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
- Naeem, Asma. "Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, The Seamstress." In Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945. Edited by Sarah Cash. Washington, 2011: 212-213, 279, repro.