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The Orchid

Date: ca. 1891, revised 1899 and 1909 (?)
24 1/2 x 20 in. (62.2 x 50.8 cm.)
Medium: oil on canvas
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation
Object Number: 83.8.51
Label Text:The Orchid combines Julian Alden Weir's interests in Impressionism and in 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints. The heavy, broken brushwork demonstrates the influence of Impressionism, while the asymmetry of the composition-with most of its visual weight on the right-and the closeness of the figure to the picture plane are devices common in Japanese prints. Rich and varied textiles, including the lace dress and patterned throw, provide an air of genteel refinement to the somewhat melancholy scene of a young woman gazing at an orchid.
The irregular surface texture and awkward handling of the figure's hands result from Weir reworking the composition at least once. X-rays show that the original subject of the painting was an older woman, perhaps Weir's wife Anna, reading a letter. Anna's death in 1892 may have caused him to alter it, or Weir may simply have been dissatisfied with the first painting.