The Old Duchess, 1905
George Luks (American, 1866–1933)
Oil on canvas; 30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm)
George A. Hearn Fund, 1921 (21.41.1)
This canvas appeared at New York's Macbeth Gallery in February 1908 in the landmark exhibition of The Eight and at Kraushaar Gallery, New York, in 1916. After the latter exhibition, the critic James Huneker described its subject: "In life she was an elderly hag with a distinguished bearing, a depraved woman of rank who wore five or six dresses at once, on her head a shapeless yet attractive gear, and in her pocket she carried a fat roll of bills for purposes of dissipation, or bribery, or for bailing out some Tenderloin wreck. She is maleficence incarnate. Now fancy this bird of the night set forth by a sympathetic brush, endowed with a life that overflows the canvas, and you see this grande dame strut by, the embodiment of evil, yet a Duchess a la Sir Joshua, but a rebours. It is a sinister art which recalls the genius of Toulouse-Lautrec. With Lautrec the work of Luks has certain affinities. He may never have studied that painter; rather [it is] a temperamental resemblance, a certain tolerant way of seeing men and things. But Luks is not as cynical as the Frenchman."