A cultural critic and artist throughout his life, Guy Pène du Bois was born in Brooklyn, New York. He studied from 1899 to 1905 with William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, and Kenneth Hayes Miller. His earliest paintings were street scenes drawn in free brushstrokes and dark colors, reflecting Henri's influence. After 1920 most of his work focused on middle- and upper-class people in fashionable restaurants and nightclubs, often portrayed in a satirical manner. The rounded, simplified figures of his subjects have been compared to mannequins or caricatures and convey Pène du Bois' critical attitude. Many of his images seem like quiet pauses in unfolding dramas, lending them an air of tension and mystery.
Pène du Bois' writing career developed along with his activities as an artist. He worked as a writer as well as a music and art critic for several New York newspapers. In 1913 he began a seven-year editorship of Arts and Decoration with a special issue on the Armory Show. The artist lived in France from 1924 to 1930. His autobiography, Artists Say the Silliest Things, was published in 1940. Pène du Bois died in 1958 in Boston, Massachusetts.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art.]
Cortissoz, Royal. Guy Pène du Bois. New York, 1931.
Pène du Bois, Guy. Artists Say the Silliest Things. New York, 1940.
Baker, John. "Guy Pène du Bois on Realism." Achrives of American Art Journal 17, no. 2 (1977): 2-13.
Fahlman, Betsy. Guy Pène du Bois: Artist About Town. Exh. cat. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE; Mary and Leigh Block Gallery, Evanston, IL, 1980-1981. Washington, 1980.
Fahlman, Betsy. Guy Pène du Bois: Painter of Modern Life, New York, 2004.