Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Art & Architecture > 73. Florine Stettheimer

73.  Florine Stettheimer (1871-1944).  Portrait of Myself, 1923. Oil on canvas, mounted on composition board, signed and dated, across top, "Florine St." (101.6 x 66 cm.), 1923. Office of Art Properties

Florine Stettheimer was an artist, designer, and poet. Although during her lifetime she was little known outside the circle of New York modernists of which she and her sisters were a part, Stettheimer's achievements in painting, costume, and set design have since been recognized as important contributions to American art in the first half of the twentieth century. She was born in Rochester, New York, the second youngest of five children in a well-to-do German-Jewish family. In 1914, after studying art in both New York and Europe, Stettheimer settled permanently in New York City with her mother and two sisters. Together they hosted salons and intellectual gatherings for over twenty years that included such figures as Marcel Duchamp, Carl Van Vechten, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Alfred Stieglitz, many of whom became the subjects of Stettheimer's portraits.

Her first and only solo exhibition during her lifetime took place in 1916. It was a great disappointment to her, and subsequently Stettheimer showed her work only in group exhibitions. In her vividly colored portraits of family and friends, Stettheimer experimented with modernist styles and expressed her often witty social commentary on contemporary culture. She created sets and costumes for two never-produced ballets and the well-known 1934 Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson opera Four Saints in Three Acts. In addition to the paintings catalogued by Columbia's Office of Art Properties, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds her journals, early paintings and drawings, scrapbooks, and figurines, including those for Four Saints, included in the Theater Historic & Dramatic Arts section of this exhibition. Her Portrait of Myself shows the artist dressed in a diaphanous gown; she floats beneath the arch of her signature, which ends in a radiant sun and dancing mayfly.

Gift of the Estate of Ettie Stettheimer, 1967

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