Seymour Joseph Guy (American, 1824-1910)

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  • The artist depicts the infant’s soft skin, the intricate details of the rattle and the mischievous character of the young girl.
  • Temptation exemplifies Guy’s command of dramatic lighting effects and varied textures.
  • Guy concentrated on everyday scenes of childhood, a popular Victorian era theme.
Smooth Surfaces and Rich Details

Seymour Guy was born and raised in England where he studied art before immigrating to New York City in 1854. When Guy arrived in America, he was already a mature painter specializing in everyday scenes of children. The Victorian art-buying public favored works depicting children, especially those that celebrated middle-class life. His work has a smooth, glossy surface, rich colors, and crisp details. Guy may have acquired his polished style by copying the paintings of seventeenth-century Dutch masters in London. Guy described his method: “I paint up a simple story, trying to get into it as much beauty as possible from color, light, and shade.”

Temptation exemplifies Guy’s command of dramatic lighting effects and varied textures. It tells the simple story of a young girl teasing an infant by dangling a strawberry in front of the baby, who eagerly reaches for the sumptuous treasure. Guy deftly renders the baby’s playfulness, soft skin, and the intricate details of the Victorian rattle, as well as the mischievous character of the little girl. From the powdery green color of the girl’s dress to the velvet pillow, Guy created for his viewers a soothing, reassuring environment devoid of a single sharp angle or harsh contrast.

Edwards, Lee M. Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Painting 1840-1910. Yonkers, New York: Hudson River Museum, 1986.

Lubin, David M. Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1994.

Object Information

Seymour Joseph Guy (American, 1824-1910)
creation date
about 1884
oil on canvas
25 x 30 in.
39 x 44 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
The Ballard Family Memorial Fund
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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