The Blue Dress

Artist: Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938)
Historical period(s)
ca. 1910-12
Oil on canvas
H x W: 61.1 x 45.8 cm (24 1/16 x 18 1/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Oil painting

United States, woman

From 1913 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Thomas Wilmer Dewing in February 1913 [1]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [2]


[1] Linda Merrill, December 1993, Curatorial Remarks. Also see List American Paintings other than Whistler, A, pg. 9, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Thomas Wilmer Dewing (C.L. Freer source) 1851-1938
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


Thomas Wilmer Dewing's late painting technique is revealed with particular clarity in The Blue Dress. The composition is minimal: a single figure against a horizontally divided neutral background. Within these self-imposed limits, Dewing anchors his figure with a thinly painted but broadly brushed luxurious skirt, a treatment that contrasts with the careful modeling of the woman's head, shoulders, and arms. To paint her skin, Dewing used a tiny brush, making miniscule strokes and dots that suggest the quality of light flickering over the surface. The flickering light created by these tiny and precise brushstrokes is reinforced by the weave of the canvas--;in some places the paint is so thinly applied that the canvas shows through. The same ground that appears at the lower right corner of the canvas can also be seen at the right side of the figure's face.

In spite of severely restricting his compositional elements, Dewing achieves an animated, lively figure painting. The woman's extended arm echoes the sweep of her elegant skirt, and the loose brushwork provideds a visual metaphor for the rustling of heavy silk. A shaft of light catching her shoulder emphasizes her forward motion, and the model seems to be on the verge of stepping into the gallery through the 'doorway' of her frame.

Published References
  • Susan Hobbs. Thomas Wilmer Dewing: Beauty into Art: A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven, CT, November 13, 2018. pg 499, pl 254.
  • Susan Hobbs. The Art of Thomas Wilmer Dewing: Beauty Reconfigured. Exh. cat. Washington, 1996. p. 39, fig. 29.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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