Left: Guy Pène du Bois (1884–1958), Crossroads
Right: Guy Pène du Bois (1884–1958), The Ballet Tryout
Guy Pène du Bois was an important modern American artist, art critic, and teacher whose work highlights human and social interaction in urban settings. Born in Brooklyn, he began studying at the New York School of Art when he was just 14 years old. He quickly developed an appreciation for Realism under his instructor William Merritt Chase, yet the academic method was soon forgotten in the classroom of Robert Henri. Pène du Bois quickly earned recognition and success, debuting at the Paris Salon in 1905 and participating in the legendary 1913 Armory Show. His distinct style developed in the 1920s when trademarks of his paintings included urban society, flattened and abstracted figures, and a unique, satirical sentiment. His work is in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art.
In The Ballet Tryout, Pène du Bois’s skill in portraying emotional complexity is shown in his selection of an extremely tense moment seen from an insider’s view to represent the entertainment industry. He captures an anxious performer as she prepares for her audition against whispers in the background, while a more seasoned dancer contemplates her own performance in the foreground. Crossroads shows Pène du Bois’s penchant for drama and metaphor as a young woman is faced with the choice of which road to take. Pène du Bois makes it clear that this will not be her last decision, however, as another crossroad marker is visible in the distance.
Both of these works, along with more than 400 other American paintings, are on view at Questroyal Fine Art. To request a catalogue visit questroyalfineart.com/publications.