Albert Herter Woman with Red Hair
Technic: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 81,3 x 54,6 cm
Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Albert Herter Woman with Red Hair Analysis
This figure exemplifies the luxury and elegance of the Gilded Age. Albert Herter (1871 – 1950) framed the unidentified model’s swanlike neck, taut profile, and abundant mass of hair against a lavishly ornamented background that echoes the rich embroidery of her dress; the gossamer filaments attaching the sleeve to the bodice exhibit a refined sensitivity to the exquisitely handcrafted garments of privilege. The painting’s format recalls portraiture of the Italian Renaissance, a common aim of turn-of-the-century American artists, revealing their lofty aspirations.
Not strictly a portrait, the painting represents the spirit of art in all its beauty, complexity, and craftsmanship. Herter, like other artists of the period, also made decorative art objects, designing and executing tapestries at the Herter Looms in America with craftsmen brought over from his beloved France. Design and a sophisticated palette of reds, greens, browns, and salmons define this jewel-like image, its emphasis on surface pattern relating directly to textile weaving. In an industrial age when even an aesthete like Henry Adams perceived the machine as a “moral force” Herter decisively took his stand for art.