One of only two of DeCamp's paintings saved from the tragic Harcourt Building fire in 1904,The Listener (Woman at the Theatre)remained in the DeCamp family for many years and was never shown by the artist in a public exhibition. Captured from a dramatic point of view, the model's intense gaze and deftly rendered flesh tones demonstrate DeCamp gift for portraiture, while the theatrical setting relates to his interest in musical themes and subjects that began at the turn of the century. A pencil study for this painting, currently in a private collection, shows that he may have initially contemplated including more figures in the composition, yet the striking nature of the finished painting is immediately engaging and transforms the viewer into the object of her attention.
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Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Joseph Rodefer DeCamp studied briefly at the McMicken School of Design before traveling abroad and enrolling at the Royal Academy in Munich in 1878. In 1883 DeCamp returned to the Ohio area and took teaching positions at art academies in Cleveland, but by 1884, he had settled in Boston where he became an influential teacher, beginning at Wellesley College from 1884 to 1886. In 1897, DeCamp became one of the founding members of the Impressionist group, the Ten American Painters, along with Boston friends Frank W. Benson and Edmund C. Tarbell.
Disaster struck in 1904 and his studio in the Harcourt Building burned down. Starting from scratch, he offered to paint fellow St. Botolph Club members at a reduced rate, thus establishing himself as one of Boston’s foremost portrait artists. For the next fifteen years, DeCamp went on to capture the likenesses of many notable sitters, including Benjamin Ames Kimball (1905), Charles Henry Taylor (1913), his teacher Frank Duveneck (1911-12) and President Theodore Roosevelt (1908).
Private collection, Wellesley, Massachusetts
Eventually to collection, New York, New York, 2000
To private collection, Stratham, New Hampshire, May 2000 to present
(lower stretcher, covered by marker) Property of Lydia--- (illegible)
Adelson Galleries, New York, with painting description
Buckley, Laurene, Joseph DeCamp, Master Painter of the Boston School (Munich and New York: Prestel-Verlag, 1995), p. 100, illus.