By 1915, Marie Danforth Page began to focus on portraying the intimate relationship between mother and child, a development perhaps brought on by a reduced number of commissions during World War I, but also likely a product of her wish to become a mother herself. In 1919, at the age of fifty, she and her husband adopted two young girls, Susan and Margaret, who quickly became two of her favorite muses. One of the most impressive portrayals of her daughters is The Girls, which Page exhibited at several venues during the early 1920s, including the National Academy of Design’s Winter Exhibition of 1923 where she was awarded the Isidor Medal for achievement in figure painting.
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The double-portrait embodies all of the tenets of Page’s Boston School training, from the careful arrangement of her subjects, to the intriguing progression of light and shadow across the canvas, and her deft interpretation of the various color tones and textures in the scene. While it initially reads as a portrait, there is a narrative to be found in the girls’ positioning and attire, and in the objects they hold. Margaret, seated and dressed in a reserved, dark frock with white collar, turns the page of a book while the younger Susan stands behind with one hand on her hip and the other on a tennis racket, the shadows barely disguising the bright yellow color of her casual romper. This contrast may allude to the sisters’ individual personalities or may have simply been Page’s choice as she choreographed the painting, yet the figures share a commonality by not engaging the viewer’s eyes with their own, and remain engrossed with their own thoughts of the outside world. In addition to the National Academy, The Girls was shown at the Art Institute of Chicago (1922), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1923), the Guild of Boston Artists (1924), the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York (1924), and the Detroit Institute of Arts (1926).
By descent through the family of the artist
(verso of frame in pencil) 128 Marlboro St.
1). The Art Institute of Chicago / American Paintings and Sculpture / Thirty-Fifth Annual Exhibition – 1922 / Artist: M—(faded) / Address: 128—(faded) / Title: (faded) / Return Address (faded)
2). (stamp) Ex. P.A.F.A.
3). (torn) The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts / One Hundred and Eighteenth Annual Exhibition / (partial stamp 1248?) / (rest of label is missing)
4). Boston Tercentenary / 1930 / Fine Arts Exhibition / Horticultural Hall / Title: The Girls / Artist: Marie Danforth Page / Price: $5000 / Return Address: 128 Marlboro St. / Boston, Mass.
5). (Unidentified old exhibition label, torn)
6). (on frame) S.E. No. (blank) / Museum of Fine Arts / Boston, Massachusetts / Special Loan Exhibition / of / (torn)—The Guild of Boston— / —esent [past and present?]
7). George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts / “The Girls” / TL 79.1.29
8). (inaccessible – covered by Smith label)—Museum of Fine Arts / 49 Chestnut Street, Springfield, Massachusetts / The Girls oil on canvas / 65 x 40 ¼ / Signed lower right / “Marie D. Page” / 1922 / Mrs. Fales, Phoenix
9). Peter Strickland / Phoenix, Arizona / Restored 2/5/1973
1). “Contemporary Art and the National Academy,” The American Magazine of Art, January 1924, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 715-722, illus. p. 717
2). Marie Danforth Page: Back Bay Portraitist, by Martha J. Hoppin, George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts, June 3 – August 26, 1979, catalogue no. 20, illus. p. 45 (exhibition catalogue)
1). Thirty-Fifth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, The Art Institute of Chicago, November 2 – December 10, 1922, No. 175 The Girls
2). One Hundred Eighteenth Annual Exhibition, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, February 4 – March 25, 1923, No. 266 The Girls
3). Winter Exhibition, National Academy of Design, November 17 – December 16, 1923, No. 355 The Girls (awarded Isidor Prize)
4). Guild of Boston Artists, 1924 (according to Smith Art Museum exhibition catalogue, 1979)
5). Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York, 1924 (according to Smith Art Museum exhibition catalogue, 1979)
6). Detroit Institute of Arts, 1926 (according to Smith Art Museum exhibition catalogue, 1979)
7). Boston Tercentenary Fine Arts and Crafts Exhibition, Horticultural Hall, July 1930, No. 48 The Girls
8). Marie Danforth Page: Back Bay Portraitist, George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts, June 3 – August 26, 1979