Guy Pène du Bois

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About this artist

Guy Pène du Bois holds a distinctive place in the history of twentieth-century American art for he was as famous for his art criticism as for his painting. He enrolled in the Chase School in New York in 1899, and when ROBERT HENRI took over in 1902, du Bois came under his spell. In 1905 he accompanied his father, Henri Pène du Bois, a noted critic and writer, to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Colarossi and with Theodore Steinlen (1859-1923). After the death of his father in 1906 du Bois returned to the United States.

Following his father’s example, he turned to journalism, first as a reporter on the New York American. By 1909 he had become their full-time art critic. Until well into the 1920s financial demands necessitated that his writing take priority over his painting. He spent a year on the New York Tribune as Royal Cortissoz’s assistant. Du Bois also edited the magazine Arts and Decoration (1913-16, 1917-21) and wrote for the New York Post. During the 1920s he was a frequent contributor to The Arts and in 1932 to the short-lived Arts Weekly. He also participated in the planning of the Armory Show and was a member of the Society of Independent Artists and of the Whitney Studio Club, where he had his first solo exhibition in 1918. He taught occasionally, opening his own school in 1932, teaching at the Art Students League in 1935, and in 1938 at a summer art school in Amagansett, New York.

Beginning in 1924 du Bois devoted himself exclusively to painting. He and his family moved to France, where they lived for almost six years, residing in the countryside near Paris. This move marked the beginning of his mature period and the painting of his bestknown works. During his entire painting career du Bois focused on contemporary city life. Bringing a somewhat cynical attitude to his depiction of the upper class, du Bois developed a sleek figurative style to reflect his view of an over-indulgent society. He thus developed a personal brand of realism that was an outcome of Henri’s teachings but infused with urbanity and sophistication derived from his French heritage and experiences abroad.

New York, Collections of Willa Kim, Yvonne McKenney, and William Pène du Bois, Guy Pène du Bois Papers (on microfilm, Archiv. Am. Art) § Index 20th Cent. Artists 2 (November 1934): 28-32; 2 (September 1935): II; 3 (August-September 1936): v; reprint, pp. 281-85,287, 289 § Guy Pène du Bois, Artists Say the Silliest Things (New York, American Artists Group, 1940) § John Baker, "Guy Pène du Bois on Realism," Archiv. Am. Art Journal 17, no. 2 (1977): 2-13, with unedited draft of the artist’s manuscript "Realism" § Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, and others, Guy Pène du Bois: Artist about Town, exh. cat., 1980, with text by Betsy Fahlman, chronology, bibliography.