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“The House Maid” by William McGregor Paxton

"The House Maid" by William McGregor Paxton

“The House Maid” by William McGregor Paxton

“The House Maid” by William McGregor Paxton depicts a woman engrossed in a book and standing behind a table on which a group of still-life objects is displayed. The woman is dressed in a housemaid’s uniform and holds a feather duster under her arm.

The still-life objects include an open stationery box on the left and various East Asian ceramic works. The painting was created in Boston, and the objects echo New England’s long history of trade with Asia.

Arranged on the table are a white Chinese lidded jar, a dark polished vessel, a porcelain Chinese figure, and a Qing dynasty blue-and-white porcelain pot.

The background wall is featureless other than Paxton’s name and the painting’s date, prominently featured in the top left corner.

The composition of Asian objects and a young attractive woman was a typical motif in the early-1900s American painting.

Reading is likewise a familiar subject at that period of American art. Paxton, however, chose to depict a housemaid rather than the usual lady of leisure. 

Paxton was an admirer of Johannes Vermeer’s work and similarly gravitated to indoor scenes, typically featuring women engaged in household duties, recalling Dutch painters’ domestic subjects.

The composition and muted palette, the rendered textures and arrangement, and sense of quiet concentration all have parallels in Vermeer’s works of domestic scenes with women.

Boston School

The Boston School was a group of Boston-based painters active in the early 1900s. Often classified as American Impressionists, they had their own regional style.

They combined  Impressionism with respect for the traditions of Western art history. Their preferred subject matter was portraits, picturesque landscapes, and young women posing in well-appointed interiors. 

William McGregor Paxton

William McGregor Paxton (1869 – 1941) was an American painter who embraced the Boston School paradigm and was a co-founder of The Guild of Boston Artists. 

Paxton is known for his portraits, including those of two presidents, and interior scenes with women, including his wife. 

“The House Maid” by William McGregor Paxton

William McGregor Paxton

William McGregor Paxton

A Virtual Tour of the National Gallery of Art

“The House Maid” by William McGregor Paxton

“The House Maid” by William McGregor Paxton

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“Life is short; art is long.”
– Ancient Greek Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1)William McGregor Paxton, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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