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The Art of JAMA
February 10, 2015

Portia in a Pink Blouse: Guy Pène du Bois

JAMA. 2015;313(6):550-551. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.11569

Whether sketching a chichi café scene in the south of France seaside, or turning his brush to New York opera buffs, for Guy Pène du Bois (1884-1958) the drama of humanity was a source of delight. He pictured societal charades and people’s efforts to connect with poignancy and an occasional touch of amusement. He also chronicled the emerging status of women, who, having received the right to vote, moved forward into the frisson of the Jazz Age.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Henri Pène du Bois, a man of literary bent, Guy was named for French writer Guy de Maupassant. Enrolling in the New York School of Art in 1899, du Bois studied with William Merritt Chase, later receiving instruction from Robert Henri, who became part of The Eight, a group of realist artists who tended to portray the workaday world of the less privileged. Father and son journeyed to Europe in 1905, and in Paris Guy studied at the Atelier Colarossi. He also received private lessons from Théophile Steinlen, whose work included commentary on conditions in society. Guy absorbed the Parisian environs with ardor and found the cafés a convenient source of character studies.