Ruth Pratt Bobbs was born into a moneyed family in Indianapolis, Indiana. When she was eight years old, her mother took her to Saturday art school. At sixteen, after the death of her parents, Bobbs went to Paris, where she studied at the Académie Julian. She returned to New York and enrolled in the Art Students League. By the time she came back to Indianapolis to continue her training at the John Herron Art Institute, Bobbs had studied with William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, Kenyon Cox and Frank Vincent DuMond. She also worked with Charles Webster Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts. At twenty-eight she married William C. Bobbs, president of the Bobbs-Merrill publishing company, a man twenty-three years her senior. After the death of her husband in 1926, Bobbs went back to Paris and opened a studio. When she returned to Indianapolis, Bobbs opened a studio and gallery where she painted portraits of local citizens, entrepreneurs, and government leaders. Despite coming from a wealthy family and marrying into wealth, which created a great deal of skepticism regarding her sincerity as an artist, Bobbs proved she was serious by becoming a very successful portrait painter.
This portrait depicts young Laura Miller, the daughter of Indianapolis lawyer Sydney Miller, who had served as attorney general under President Benjamin Harrison. Laura became a cub reporter for The Indianapolis New and later wrote three novels. The painting exhibits Bobbs’ style influenced by Chase’s example. The active, loosely brushed surface and natural pose of the pensive, self contained girl recall Chase’s portraits of his daughters, such as Dorothy, also in the IMA’s American collection.
Judith Vale Newton and Carol Ann Weiss. Skirting the Issue: Stories of Indiana’s Historical Women Artists, Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0871951779