Girl Sweeping
Girl Sweeping
Girl Sweeping
Girl Sweeping
Girl Sweeping
Girl Sweeping
Girl Sweeping
Girl Sweeping

Girl Sweeping

William McGregor Paxton (American, 1869-1941)

Currently on View in K208
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Paxton, who was known for his fine draftsmanship, uses diffused light to soften contours in a manner similar to Impressionism.

His favorite subjects were female figures posed in elegant interiors.

Paxton was a member of the Boston School that flourished during the early 20th century.

  • Paxton used diffuse light to subtly soften the forms in this scene. This effect appealed to Americans in the early twentieth century, who had become accustomed to the less rigid contours and textures of Impressionism. At the heart of his style, however, is a firm sense of composition and drawing, traits he learned through his study with the French academic painter Jean-Léon Gérôme.
  • Paxton’s signature subject matter, typical of the Boston School, was a leisure-class woman isolated in a well-appointed interior with elegant furniture and porcelains. In this painting, however, he chooses a behind-the-scenes view of a housekeeper engaged in maintaining such an interior. Despite the change in subject, Paxton does not abandon the mood of quiet introspection that characterizes his work.

The Figure Painting of William Paxton

William Paxton was born and raised in Newton, Massachusetts. He studied at the Cowles School in Boston and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The seventeenth-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer was his primary influence, especially for his figure studies. In addition to easel paintings, Paxton produced murals, lithographs, and etchings in his Boston, East Gloucester, and Provincetown studios. He became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1928. Paxton was equally famous for his portraiture and figure studies of upper class women at leisure.

Girl Sweeping depicts a member of another stratum of society, the working class. This intimate painting, which is reminiscent of Jean-Siméon Chardin’s figure painting, is a smaller version of a work executed in 1912. Both compositions are very similar except for a rearrangement of furniture and the addition of the cap in the Indianapolis version, which more readily defines the figure as a servant. It is not unusual for Paxton to include servants tending to the luxurious spaces of the upper class.

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

...Hirschl and Adler Galleries New York; Sloan and Roman New York; purchased by Mrs. Harry Mallinson in 1971; donated to the IMA 2004

Object Information

William McGregor Paxton (American, 1869-1941)
creation date
about 1912
oil on canvas board
17-1/4 x 14-1/2 in.
25-1/4 x 22-1/4 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
signed in graphite, verso of the canvas board's paper backing: PAXTON BOSTON | original carved gilt frame, signed by Walfred Thulin 1913 # 99
accession number
credit line
Gift of Susan K. Mallinson
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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