Bessie Potter, ca. 1895
William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916)
Oil on canvas; 32 x 25 5/8 in. (81.3 x 65.1 cm)
Bequest of Bessie Potter Vonnoh Keyes, 1954 (55.118)
Bessie Potter (1872–1955) was born in Saint Louis and studied in Chicago. She earned a reputation as a sculptor of statuettes in bronze that portray intimate feminine subjects. In 1899, she married the painter Robert Vonnoh and lived in New York, where she and her husband undoubtedly knew Chase. In this portrait, Chase captures Potter's sensitive but reserved personality. Her pose and the soft turban that she wears recall those in a self-portrait (1790; Uffizi, Florence) by the French painter Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842), whom Potter apparently admired.