Arthur B. Carles, Mlle de C.

Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Museum purchase in honor of Tony Hitschler, 2020
41 1/2 x 32 1/4 in.

An accomplished and charismatic singer, dancer, and musician, Mercedes de Cordoba was a muse-like figure in avant-garde circles. She met Carles in New York in 1904, and the couple married while living in France in 1909. Carles sent the portrait back to Philadelphia to be exhibited in the Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) that same year.

Living together with Mercedes in Paris, Carles became immersed in the exhilarating world of avant-garde artists and collectors, including Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Gertrude and Leo Stein among others. He would participate in the 1908 Salon d’Automne in Paris, one of the groundbreaking exhibitions of modern art.

Carles, whose art is characterized by incessant experimentation, seems at a crossroads between an impressionist approach and more avant-garde ideas. The ennobled figure seems to dissolve into broad, quick strokes of intense color (note the green dashes for shadows in the dress.) Background elements vie for the viewer’s attention, in particular geometric plays of light on the rear doors. Carles depicts himself as a reflection in the French window behind his beloved.


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