Thomas Wilmer Dewing 1851-1938

Seated Lady in a Yellow Dress

  • 14 1/4 x 11 1/4 inches (36.2 x 28.6 cm)
  • Pastel
  • Signed and inscribed lower right: T W Dewing / 104

Why We Love It

“Gossamer” is the best term to describe Dewing’s ethereal and mystical works. Never has an artist created so much from so little. Upon close examination of his paintings and most particularly his pastels, one sees that he has woven an amazing vignette with just a few small strokes. Like a Chopin prelude, these works are deceptively simple. Elegant, spare and perfect.

The Value

Dewing is acknowledged to have been one of America’s leading artists. He was an important figure in the Aesthetic Movement and, despite the fact that he was not an impressionist, he was a member of The Ten.

Artist Background

1851: Born in Boston; 1875: Listed in Boston city directory as “artist”; 1876: Traveled to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian; 1877: Returned to Boston and rented a studio; 1878: Accepted a teaching position at the new art school of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; 1880: Elected to Society of American Artists. Moved to New York City. Accepted position as instructor at the Art Students League (ASL); 1881: Married artist Maria Richards Oakey; 1887: Made an associate of the National Academy of Design (NAD); 1888: Made a full member of the NAD. Leaves teaching position at the ASL; 1889: Lady in Yellow won silver medal at the Universal Exposition, Paris; 1890: Mentioned working in pastel medium for the first time. Met his most important patron, Charles Lang Freer in Detroit; 1893: Began work as an agent for Freer, purchasing art work and objects for the Freer collection; 1897: Resigned from the Society of American Artists and helped organize The Ten American Painters, known as the Ten; 1898: First retrospective at the St. Botolph Club in Boston. First annual exhibition of the Ten at Durand-Ruel Gallery, New York; 1908: Won first place medal at Carnegie Institute for “The Necklace”; 1918: Started exhibiting with William Macbeth; 1923: The Freer Gallery Art opened in Washington, D.C., with a whole room dedicated to Dewing’s work; 1929: John Gellatly, another one of Dewing’s great patrons, bequeathed his collection of Dewing’s works to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (later the National Museum of American Art); 1938: Died.

Thomas Wilmer Dewing was deeply influenced by James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s credo of art for art’s sake and the Aesthetic Movement at large, which stressed the importance of beauty and assigned an otherworldly and cosmic dimension to art. Seated Lady in a Yellow Dress, a delicate pastel of a finely dressed young woman, highlights Dewing’s refined style and desire to make his sitters appear remote, even ethereal. The decorative quality of the pastel, in concert with the tonal character of Dewing’s style, was intended to evoke the restorative power of art.