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American Paintings and Sculpture
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Artist: Walt Kuhn, American, 1877–1949

Chorus Captain

1935

Oil on canvas

40 × 30 in. (101.6 × 76.2 cm)
Katharine Ordway Fund
2003.8.1

Walt Kuhn’s portrait of a showgirl offers psychological insight into the backstage life of the performer, evoking the tension between the sitter’s private mood and her public role. The artist, who staged and directed vaudeville shows, often portrayed individuals he knew personally. Here, Kuhn uses direct paint application, a frontal viewpoint, and flattened forms on a dark background to bring the young woman forward. Adorned with gaudy makeup and voluminous ostrich feathers, this showgirl seems at once unselfconscious and weary, perhaps resigned to being the object of attention. Accustomed to an entertainer’s life though she may be, the woman’s despondent expression betrays her vulnerability.

Geography: 
Made in United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Provenance: 

Estate of the artist; Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York; Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, Switzerland, 1979; Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, New York, Dec. 3, 2002; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2003

Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions 2003,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004): 138, ill.

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 108, pls. 95, 368–69.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.