James Carroll Beckwith (1852-1917)
Portrait of Mary Margaret McDonald
Signed (at upper left): J. Carroll Beckwith
Oil on canvas
32 x 25 inches
Ex. coll: By descent in the family of the sitter to the present.
J. Carroll Beckwith, like the writer Mark Twain, was born in Hannibal, Missouri. He moved to Chicago with his family as a young boy. By 1871 he was living in New York and studying at the National Academy of Design. A short two years later, in 1873, Beckwith was on his way to France to continue his studies. Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran was a popular painting instructor with American students and Beckwith studied with him and later even assisted him with projects. Carolus-Duran was a well-known portrait painter. Under Carolus-Duran's tutelage, Beckwith became a very accomplished portrait painter, exhibiting portraits at The Paris Salon and the Exposition Universelle in Paris. While in Paris, Beckwith befriended John Singer Sargent. The two became life-long friends.
By 1878 Beckwith was back in New York working at the Art Students League, painting portraits and executing decorative designs. In the summer of 1891, Beckwith's style underwent a dramatic transformation. He spent the summer in France and travelled to see his friend John Leslie Breck at Giverny. There, Beckwith came under the influence of Monet and the American Impressionists. He returned to New York and continued to paint until his death in 1917.
This Portrait of Mary Margaret McDonald probably dates to around 1880 - 1885. The condition of the painting is excellent and it retains its original carved, gilded frame. It is also unusual to find a painting that has remained in the sitter's family since it was painted.