Executed energetically with thin layers of paint and a soft pink palette, this portrait displays a surprising modernity for Tarkington’s collection. The sitter, the little-known poet Portia Novello Le Brun, sits alone at a table and gazes pensively through a dramatic veil that obscures her face. Her fingers mark her place in her book, titled either All is Grass or All is Crass, penned by Le Brun herself. Though Tarkington had called modern art “noisy” and “violent,” he was “haunted” by Du Bois’s work and purchased this portrait from an exhibition at the John Herron Art Institute in 1944. It must have appealed to him because of its subject, a fellow writer. Tarkington owned portraits of at least eight authors.
Sold by Newhouse Galleries in New York as part of the Newton Booth Tarkington estate 1952