Bryson Burroughs (1868-1934), The return of Judith, 1912, oil on canvas , 61.6 x 76.2 cm, auctioned by Christie’s Interiors, Lot 12, October 1-2, 2013, New York, NY, USA
Maid: Excuse me, madam, but … did we forget something?
Judith: No, I don’t think so. I have the fauchon right here in my hand.
Maid: Yes you do, although you forgot to wipe off the blood. And then there’s the …
Judith: And I have my shawl. And I remembered my jewelry.
Maid: Yes you did. But you don’t have the top to your gown. And then there’s the …
Judith: You might be right. I do feel like I’m forgetting something. Like I went in the tent for some reason and now … dang, I’m so exhausted I can’t think straight and I can’t seem to get ahead.
It may seem that I make light of this work, but actually I find it very appealing. This work of Bryson Burroughs demonstrates his classicism (obsession with narrative content, traditional pictorial perspective, and figuration) and his emulation of Puvis de Chavannes, the muralist. The similarity of their styles is seen in “an overall simplification of the painted surface, a reduction of modeling to eliminate chiaroscuro, an emphasis on linear outline to delineate major passages, a palette of lighter tonality, and a preference for subdued subjects based on religion and mythology.” (1,2)
But Burroughs’ true claim-to-fame was serving as Curator of Painting for the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 28 years. He continued to paint scenes of biblical stories and Greek myths. However it was suggested that Burroughs knew he could never contribute to high art, and he painted these “affectionate fantasies as a respite from being art’s servant.” (3)
(1) Child’s Gallery, Bryson Burroughs.
(2) Douglas Dreishpoon, The Paintings of Bryson Burroughs (1869-1934), New York: Hirschl & Adler, 1984
(3) Vivien Raynor, ART: BRYSON BURROUGHS, WORK INSPIRED BY MYTH, New York Times, March 2, 1984.