Glow of Gold, Gleam of Pearl

William McGregor Paxton (American, 1869-1941)

Currently on View in K207
Image Licensing

  • With its sinuous silhouette and theatrical pose, this figure is a powerful reminder of Paxton’s academic training in Paris. Yet instead of the smooth finish that lends French nudes their idealism, her skin is brushed with the ruddy reflections of nearby walls, giving it a sensuous realism.
  • Paxton regarded this canvas as the masterpiece of his early career. It predates most of the elegant domestic scenes for which he and other Boston School painters are best known. (A more typical work hangs in gallery K208.)
  • This nude stirred controversy among Paxton’s critics. Some found it “entirely modest,” while others were offended by its “aggressive nakedness.”
"Envelope of Light and Paint"

William Paxton belonged to the Boston School of artists, which included Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell. He was strongly influenced by the intimate interiors of seventeenth-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Portraiture and figure studies were Paxton’s specialty. He was also noted for his depictions of upper class life. A consummate draftsman and colorist, Paxton was adept at depicting flesh convincingly. Paxton described his technique, “I let the surfaces flow into one another in a supple envelope of light and paint.”

Glow of Gold, Gleam of Pearl is the masterpiece of Paxton’s early career. A transitional work, it predates most of the elegant domestic scenes for which he is best known. The figure’s silhouette and theatrical pose are reminiscent of Jean Léon Gérôme’s academic paintings, which Paxton would have seen during his training with Gérôme in Paris. Instead of the smooth, idealizing finish characteristic of French nudes, this figure is brushed with a modified impressionist flourish. The model’s ruddy complexion captured as a reflection on the nearby walls give her flesh a sensuous realism.

Lee, Ellen Wardwell, R. H. Ives Gammel, Martin F. Krause, Jr. William McGregor Paxton 1869-1941. Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1979.

The artist; the wife of the artist and his estate; by bequest to R. H. I. Gammell in Boston, Massachusetts, 1971; Robert Douglas Hunter, Boston, Massachusetts; given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1979.

Object Information

William McGregor Paxton (American, 1869-1941)
creation date
oil on canvas
75-3/4 x 35-3/8 in. (canvas)
85 x 45-1/4 x 3 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Signed, l.r.: PAXTON
accession number
credit line
Gift of Robert Douglas Hunter
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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