A Pennsylvania native, Katherine Wagenhals studied at Smith College and at the Art Students League in New York and at the Académie Moderne in Paris before making her way to Fort Wayne, Indiana. There she may have taught t the Fort Wayne School of Art with her talented relatives the printmakers Jessie and Norah Hamilton.
This prim lady in a blue suit and rather assertive bonnet won Wagenhals the Art Association of Indianapolis Purchase Prize in 1916. Although the genteel setting falls within the tradition of interiors painted by the Boston School artists, the thick, simple strokes used to suggest the visitor’s hands show Wagenhals’ familiarity with bolder painting styles. The tidy background of straight lines and 90 degree angles reinforces the impression of propriety. If not for the sitter’s intelligent expression and alert bearing, the door in the background might be interpreted as a symbol of a highly desired departure rather than a welcome arrival.
Mary Q. Burnet. Art and Artists of Indiana, New York: The Century Company, 1921. Reprinted by Unigraphic, Inc., 1981. ASIN: B002J7QO2K