Frederick MacMonnies 1863-1937

Woman in Red

  • 10 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches (27.3 x 22.2 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 1902

Why We Love It

Though he is known primarily as a sculptor, MacMonnies was also a talented painter, and he spent several years focusing exclusively on oil painting while living abroad in the artists’ colony at Giverny. Woman in Red was completed during this time, and it is arguably one of the finest examples from this period; the fluid lines and energetic movement in the painting demonstrate how remarkably he was able to translate his sculptural style into another medium.

The Value

Small impressionist paintings of this quality are jewels. Not only is the work striking and beautiful, it has exceptional provenance, having been in the French Baudy family for generations. The condition is excellent and the period is extraordinary, making it one of the finest works we are currently offering.

Artist Background

Frederick MacMonnies was one of the most successful American expatriate sculptors working in the Beaux-Arts style during the turn-of-the-twentieth century. Born in Brooklyn, New York, MacMonnies showed early promise as a sculptor, and at the age of 18, he began working odd jobs in the studio of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Within a short time, he became Saint-Gaudens’ assistant, and the two artists remained life-long friends. During this apprenticeship, MacMonnies supplemented his studies by taking evening courses at the Art Students League, Cooper Union, and the National Academy of Design.

In 1884, MacMonnies left New York to continue his training in Paris, and though he returned briefly to the United States due to a cholera outbreak in the city, by 1886 he was back in Paris and enrolled in the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. MacMonnies quickly rose to prominence there, winning a medal at the Paris Salon in 1891 for his bronze statue of the Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Hale. Moreover, he received several important commissions, including one for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Though he is known primarily as a sculptor, MacMonnies was also a talented painter, and later in his career, he turned increasingly to painting as a respite from the stressful demands of his sculpture commissions. In the 1890s, he and his wife, the painter Mary Fairchild, began spending time at the artists’ colony at Giverny, and in 1898 they took up residence there. Their home, which was formerly an old priory with a walled garden, soon became an important center for this artists’ community. His wife Mary painted many images of their garden at Giverny, and it is possible that this painting by Frederick MacMonnies also depicts this same setting.

By 1902, the year Woman in Red was completed, MacMonnies had temporarily stopped sculpting, and he continued to focus exclusively on painting until 1904. This work is arguably one of the finest examples from this period; the fluid lines and energetic movement in the painting demonstrate how remarkably he was able to translate his sculptural style into another medium. Moreover, the brilliant hue of the woman’s red cloak reveals his extraordinary color sense, which might seem surprising for an artist more used to working with the monochromatic materials of bronze and plaster. MacMonnies generously donated this picture as a gift to Gaston and Clarisse Baudy who owned the famous Hôtel Baudy, which was a favorite gathering place of artists at Giverny. The painting remained in the family, until it was purchased by the Terra Foundation in 1992.