American, 1886 ‑ 1944
Portrait of Mary Daniel, about 1938
Oil on canvas
24 × 20 3/16 in. (61 × 51.3 cm.)
Gift of Milton Fisk and Allethaire Hendricks 2001.24.1
What’s the Backstory?
Fisk was actively involved in New York contemporary art circles during the first decades of the 1900s. A student of Robert Henri (whose work is featured in this gallery), he frequented Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery, which became famous for promoting Modernist art. Fisk found city life oppressive, and in 1926, he moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where he accepted a teaching position at the local university. Mary Daniel was Fisk’s housekeeper and occasional model. Her portrait is practically a “how-to” guide of modernist painting techniques. Fisk layers and connects areas of intense, pure color to convey a sense of depth. Even though forms are simplified, flattened, and even abstracted, Mary’s portrait reveals more than her appearance suggests.