Image Resources | Currently on View in Christel DeHaan Family Foundation Galleries

Streetlight

Constance Richardson (American, 1905-2002)


Although this painting depicts the front yard of the artist’s family home in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood of Indianapolis, it is also representative of middle-class America during the 1930s.

In this work, figures, trees, and shadows are reduced to geometric forms.

Richardson’s works show her interest in atmosphere, light, and space. Like Hopper, she uses these elements not to depict a totally objective reality, but rather to evoke a mood or create a feeling from the scene. Streetlight breathes the essence of a summer evening.

Indiana

Constance Coleman Richardson

Streetlight, 1930

oil on canvas

28 x 36 inches

Gift of Mrs. James W. Fesler

Learn More

Constance Coleman Richardson grew up in Irvington, Indiana, where her father was director of the Indiana State Historical Commission.  After graduating from Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Richardson was anxious to attend art school, but her parents thought she should receive a liberal arts education.  The compromise resulted in her studying at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York for two years, and then at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where she met her husband Edgar Preston Richardson.  After they married, they moved to Detroit where her husband served as director of the Detroit Institute of Arts for the next seventeen years.  After Detroit, the couple moved to Delaware where Edgar Richardson became director of Winterthur Museum and then to Philadelphia where he served on the Board of the Pennsylvania Academy.  During this time Constance Richardson maintained her own studio and painted landscapes, portraits, and genre subjects.  Much of her work was done from sketches she made while traveling during the summer. Richardson was a prize-winning artist who exhibited widely in galleries and museums.

Richardson recalled that the site of this painting was the front yard of her family’s home at 4314 North Central in Indianapolis. Yet Richardson’s lush green neighborhood scene transcends any specific place to become a symbol of traditional middle-class America during the 1930s. The yards are large and well tended, and the house across the street, characteristic of the days before air conditioning, has a broad, striped awning.  Girls in dresses play under the streetlight, a watchful mother include din its reassuring glow.  Richardson’s vision of the scene reduces figures, trees, even shadows to simplified geometric forms.  The result is a painting that breathes the essence of a summer evening.  Very little imagination is required to hear the gentle nocturnal sounds of crickets and cicadas.

Reference

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  

Object Information

artist
Constance Richardson (American, 1905-2002)
creation date
1930
materials
oil on canvas
dimensions
28 x 36 in.
31-3/8 x 38-1/2 x 1-3/4 in. (framed)
accession number
35.78
credit line
Gift of Mrs. James W. Fesler
copyright
© Constance Richardson
collection
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945
colors