Why have I not heard of John White Alexander?
John White Alexander was an American portrait, figure, and decorative painter and illustrator. His painting are housed in private collections and museums and galleries around the world: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the list goes on and on…
Paris loved and welcomed John White Alexander. The Paris Salon of 1893, his first exhibition, was a remarkable success which opened the door to his immediate election to the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts. John and his wife, Elisabeth, became prominent members of the social and literary scene of the 1890s. Their close friends included among many, Henry James, Claude Debussy, John Singer Sargent, Isabella Steward Gardner, and Oscar Wilde.
John White Alexander painted Walt Whitman, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Burroughs, Jeremiah Milbank, and other notable men, but he is best known for his depictions of idealized women––especially those executed in Paris during the 1890s, when he developed his mature style. This is where the painting, “Alethea” came into being.
Who is Alethea? What I have gleaned is that the painting bears a remarkable resemblance to John’s wife, Elisabeth.