Charles Waltensperger (1871-1931)

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  • The Flower Arrangement
  • Oil on canvas
  • 24 x 20 inches
  • Signed lower right and verso

In The Flower Arrangement, Waltensperger depicts an unexpectedly improvisational scene: while the painting's subject has been set against a staged white backdrop, Waltensperger has not caught his subject in a traditional portrait composition as one might expect. Rather, she is in movement—kneeling down to arrange or re-arrange the vase of flowers. While the figure carefully adjusts her bouquet, her blue robe puddles luxuriously on the floor. Her discarded fan lies on the ground with a lone flower stalk, both awaiting some future action. While the woman's brightly-colored, Eastern-inspired robe hints at the aesthetic influence of Japonisme—a term first used on 1864 to describe the influence of Japanese aesthetics on Western culture—the compositional design of The Floral Arrangement suggests a more direct link. The scene's lack of perspective, general omission of shadow, backdrop of sweeping, flat color and the subject's low, off-centered position all point to the influence of Japonisme on Waltensperger's practice at this time. Further, although The Flower Arrangement’s draped backdrop reads as white, but is not white at all—rather, it is an array of pastels which, offset by the brilliant blue of the woman’s outfit, lend a unique vibrancy to the scene. Pops of color in the flowers themselves are mimicked in the floral design of the robe. In The Floral Arrangement it becomes readily apparent that Waltensperger—who, in his day-to-day as an illustrator, catered his work to the black and white of newspaper print—was not only a talented draftsman, but an intuitive colorist as well.

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