Oil. 33in. x 40in. 1959 - 1963
Gift of Katherine & Howard A. Cook
August Cook entered the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art, now known as PAFA, in 1917, a year after the death of Thomas Eakins. The college’s curriculum echoed that of traditional atelier training; students drew from plaster casts, then from live models and still lives – only moving on to the traditionally more serious disciplines of portraiture, landscape, and figure painting after a long process of refinement and technical development. Cook may have acquired his taste for approaching the art process with discipline and rigor at PAFA, or his experiences there may have merely strengthened a pre-existing commitment to those values; but discipline, rigor, and deliberation characterized his life-long approach to both art education and art-making.
Woman in Red Plaid Jacket is a portrait Cook painted of one of his students, whom the museum has identified as Mary Jane Allen-Lock, while she attended Converse College between 1959 and 1963. An exhibition label affixed to the painting’s back stretcher, presumably by Cook himself, notes that the work is “not for sale” but that “prices are available upon inquiry”. The small label is handwritten with stick-and-ink in a finely-crafted, delicate calligraphic script, reminiscent of the care with which small details, such as the sitter’s eyebrows, have been rendered in the painting itself. The handwritten exhibition label and contradictory information about the work’s availability for purchase seem to indicate that the work was one which Cook was either especially proud of, or which held some sentimental value for him. Cook was known to hand-carve frames for his work, and although not pictured here, this piece’s mount is no exception. Taken together, al l these seemingly insignificant details reveal the careful, thorough, and considered character of Cook himself.
SAM is funded in part by The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg and its donors, the County and City of Spartanburg, and the South Carolina Arts Commission which receives support from The National Endowment for the Arts.