Happy birthday to Charles Sprague Pearce, who was born on this day in 1851. Pearce is the artist of “The Shawl,” one of my favorite American paintings in the Chazen collection. “The Shawl” represents the artist’s wife, Antonia, and it was exhibited at the Universal Exposition of 1900 in Paris. The US State Department sponsored the American art display and chose artworks by leading American artists that they believed represented the best of American character and civilization. Pearce was an expatriate living in France. Antonia was French and had been one of his art students before their marriage. Pearce depicted his wife as a sophisticated woman with a confident attitude. I personally am drawn to her assertiveness and assured pose, hardly the image of a quiet, reserved woman like many of the other paintings of women exhibited in the American display at the Exposition.
—Janine Yorimoto Boldt, Associate Curator of American Art