Girl with the Sea Beyond signed and dated indistinctly 'Paxton - 190*' (lower right) oil on canvas 30 x 25in
PROVENANCE: Private collection, 1950s By descent to the present owner
William McGregor Paxton was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but at a young age his parents moved to Newton Corner outside of Boston. He studied in Paris at the Ecole de Beaux Arts under Jean-Léon Gérôme and at the Academie Julien, and later spent some time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Despite his education, he is inexorably linked to Boston School of painting with fellow artists such as Edmund Tarbell and Frank Weston Benson. He is noted for his highly finished compositions of single figures most often female in sumptuous interiors as well as portraits of members of society.
The artist was to meet his future wife, a Providence native, Elizabeth Vaughan Okie (1877-1971), the subject of the present work, at the Cowles Art School in Boston where he taught alongside Joseph DeCamp. An artist in her own right, she produced landscapes, interiors and polished still lives that received critical attention comparing them in quality to the work of her husband. After his death, she moved from their home in Newton Centre to Boston and maintained a studio in the Fenway Building. An attractive young woman, she was the model featured in a number of his compositions. Ironically, she was the subject of his last painting as the artist suffered a fatal heart attack while at the easel painting her in an interior.
In Elizabeth Paxton's hand-written roster of her husband's paintings, a larger version of the present composition is noted as The White Parasol with an original title of Girl with the Sea Beyond. The composition, in which Elizabeth is the sitter, is very similar to the present work, with only a few minor variations between the two versions. Paxton is known to have completed multiple versions of paintings in different sizes.