Bessie Potter Vonnoh

(Last Updated On July 23, 2021)

Bessie Onahotema Potter was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1872. Onahotema is a Choctaw name that means “she gives with an open hand.” It’s quite appropriate considering the contributions she has given to the world of art.  At age 14 she began working part-time for a sculptor, and taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. The purpose of her art, she told an interviewer, was to “look for beauty in the every-day world…”

Anonymous – Bessie Potter Modeling The Spirit of the Water (1896)

In 1893, Potter was one of the women artists called the “White Rabbits” who assisted Lorado Taft with sculpture for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Janet Scudder, who will be the subject of a future post, was another of the White Rabbits. By 1895, when Bessie Potter visited Europe and met Auguste Rodin, she was an established sculptor. In 1899 she married the impressionist painter Robert Vonnoh, and became Bessie Potter Vonnoh. They soon were among the best known artists in New York, where they lived.

Anonymous – Bessie Potter Vonnoh working on Water Lily  (1913)

Bessie Vonnoh specialized in small sculptures that could be displayed in a home. The statuette Water Lillies is a portrait of a young girl who was the daughter of Helen and Frank DuMond, both of whom were artists and friends of the Vonnohs. Vonnoh said that her goal was to make the statuette as lifelike as possible given the size.

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Water Lily  (c1913)

Nude young girls were a favorite subject for Bessie Vonnoh. Dancing Girl is one of her well known works.

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Dancing Girl (1910)

Reclining Girl With Butterfly is the next figurine. Note that there are slightly different versions of the work.

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Reclining Girl With Butterfly (c1920) (1)

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Reclining Girl With Butterfly (c1920) (2)

The next two sculptures are Sunbeam and Springtime of Life. Sunbeam is one of Vonnoh’s clothed figures. She did both clothed and nude statues, but most of her young girl works I have found are nude.

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Sunbeam (c1924)

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Springtime of Life (c1925) (1)


Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Springtime of Life (c1925) (2)

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Springtime of Life (c1925) (3)

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Springtime of Life a Fountain (c1925)

Sea Sprite and Water Nymph are different versions of the same statue. Beverly Maynard modeled for this statue, which served as a centerpiece for a fountain in the Sea Sprite version. Beverly’s father, Richard Field Maynard was a painter and sculptor. Did Vonnoh use her friend’s daughters as models as a favor to her friends, or was it because her friends were artists who did not object to their daughters posing nude?

Richard Maynard – Bessie Potter Vonnoh Making a Sculpture from Beverly Maynard (1928)

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Sea Sprite a Fountain (c1928)

Bessie Potter Vonnoh – Water Nymph (c1928)

Robert Vonnoh died in 1933, and Bessie produced very little art after that. Bessie died in 1955.

Random Images: Yoshiaki Machino

(Last Updated On July 25, 2021)

Christian came across this image of a nude girl holding a falcon. Not much is known about Yoshiaki Machino except that he is Japanese and exhibits in only a couple of Japanese venues. Based on the titles of the exhibitions, the artist’s work focuses on girls, especially redheads. Unfortunately, I could not figure out the provenance of this particular image so it’s hard to say how recent it is. Machino seems to be a relative newcomer, only exhibiting in galleries since 2011.

Yoshiaki Machino – (Title Unknown) (Date Unknown)

Unusual compositions like this are very compelling. Both the nude girl and the falcon may be representative of the bridge between nature and civilization. The girl and the falcon are products of nature (especially in nude form), but both species become assimilated in civilized culture and begin to perform their roles in that capacity.

Random Images: Georges Sauveur Maury

(Last Updated On July 23, 2021)

The French painter Georges Sauveur Maury was born on October 6, 1872 in Saint-Denis (near Paris). After studying with Ferdinand Humbert, Alphonse-Alexis Morlot, and Ernest Quost, he married a school teacher in 1902, and had himself a career in teaching. In 1932 he was nominated professor and workshop master in the famous Académie Julian in Paris. He died on August 22, 1960 in Montreuil (near Paris).

Maury mostly painted children, women and flowers, but he is also known for landscapes and orientalist scenes. I show below two of his paintings, showing children.

Georges Sauveur Maury - Les Bouquets

Georges Sauveur Maury – Les Bouquets (1910)

Georges Sauveur Maury - Bain matinal

Georges Sauveur Maury – Bain matinal (1924)

Another version of the second image was given in Pigtails in Paint, with the title “Three Girls by the Sea.”

Josephine Gassman’s Vaudeville Troupe

(Last Updated On July 17, 2021)

Josephine Gassman was an opera singer who established a troupe of vaudeville performers featuring Black children who sang and danced to African-American style music. The troupe’s name is not mentioned in the title of this article to avoid using a racial slur in bold letters as the first thing the reader of this article would see. For the sake of historical accuracy, I hope Ron will allow me to say here in the text that the troupe was called Josephine Gassman and Her Pickaninnies. The same word for Black children was used by other vaudeville performers of that time; the late 19th and early 20th century. It did not imply that Josephine Gassman (who was White) had an animus toward the children, and in fact she was able to work together with them to put on very popular shows. Gassman performed wearing blackface makeup.

J. E. Purdy – Gassman No5 (circa1901)

Irene Gibbons, who used the stage name Eva Taylor, was the most famous of the Gassman performers. She joined the troupe at age three in about 1898 and later left to start a solo career in music. She rejoined the Gassman troupe in 1914 as an adult singer and dancer. Gassman was not only popular in the United States, but also toured New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.

J. E. Purdy – Gassman Girl and Boy (circa1901)

James Edward Purdy, a photographer in Boston, Massachusetts, took at least five studio portraits of the child performers in about 1901. Purdy was one of the most famous photographers in America. He made portraits of the most distinguished Americans of that era. Although he is generally considered an artist, most of his work that comes up in an image search consists of stiff head and shoulders portraits of VIPs. His work with the Gassman troupe is, in my opinion, the most artistic of his work that I have seen.

Anonymous – The Brunswick and Coburg [Australia]Leader, Friday, July 24, 1914 (1914)

It also has the only nudes that I have seen among Purdy’s photographs. It would seem that the most appropriate publicity photograph for a stage act would be a photo that is similar to the act. A publicity photo of a nude girl holding a mandolin could imply that a nude girl plays a mandolin on stage. However, several reviews of Gassman’s performances are online, and none mention nudity. Some explicitly refer to the costumes worn by the performers. Although nudity seems to have been more acceptable in Edwardian and late Victorian times (see this post), I find it hard to believe that the Gassman troupe regularly performed in the nude. An advertisement for the performance in Australia stated that each child attending the matinee would receive a photograph of Baby Katlyn. I wonder if they were like the publicity photos by Purdy.

J. E. Purdy – Sheet Music Cover (circa1901)

In two of the Purdy photos in this post, a boy is present with girls. The boy is wearing shorts while the girls are naked. Since the boy is obviously younger than the girls, it is peculiar that he is the only one clothed. Clothed boys with nude girls in early 20th century photographs have been discussed in Pigtails here and here.

Anonymous – Sheet Music Cover (circa 1905)

Random Images: Eadweard Muybridge

(Last Updated On July 17, 2021)

Since the earliest conversations between Pip and myself, we talked about doing a post on this photographer many times. Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) is such a key figure in early photography that it was frankly a bit intimidating. However, since Muybridge’s interest was in the motion of animals (including human beings), only a few examples exist of children in motion and an encyclopedic post really isn’t necessary.

It is acknowledged nowadays that photography is a great medium for documentary/journalism and fine and commercial art. But it should also be understood as a valuable scientific tool as well. Muybridge saw it as a way to investigate the world. Anyone familiar with the history of photography will have heard the following tale. One of Muybridge’s patrons was Leland Stanford who was the first governor of California. He was debating with an associate about whether all four feet of a horse leave the ground when in full gallop. Muybridge set up an experiment to test this with a series of cameras and triggers that would fire at the proper moment as a horse passed them at a gallop. Stanford lost the bet because it was definitively proven that all the feet are off the ground for at least a moment. This was a pivotal event not only in photography and scientific inquiry but in motion pictures as well. That’s because after the film the developed and if one were to flip through the images in sequence, one would see the illusion of a horse in motion. This triggered a spate of innovations involving moving pictures and the advent of a motion picture industry.

However beautiful Muybridge’s pictures may have been, you will notice reference lines and numbers in them to assist in the understanding of timing and scale of the motion he was studying.

Eadweard Muybridge – Woman, with child (1887)

On the cover of the Time-Life book Photographing Children, there is a toddler girl (probably the same one) in a series of shots compressed together in a frame to show the progression of her movement.

Random Images: Barbara Morgan

(Last Updated On July 16, 2021)

It seems appropriate that today’s image is of children dancing. Throughout her life Barbara Morgan (1900–1992) has always been interested in capturing motion in pictures. She knew she wanted to be an artist and her father encouraged her so she studied to become a painter. In one class, she reportedly asked the professor if the model could move and was told indignantly that the purpose of the lesson is to learn anatomy. She met Willard Morgan while in school whom she eventually married and even though she was interested in becoming a painter (and also very interested in poetry and encouraging poets), she was told she should take up photography because it would be the artform of the 20th Century. After reading a book about the life of Isadora Duncan, Morgan became concerned that her absorption in her work might cause her sons to come to harm from neglect! Her husband assured her that photography was her real calling and that he would watch the children in the evenings when she was in the darkroom.

One of her most memorable experiences with dance was in watching the rituals of Native Americans of the Southwest. This was the first time she realized what a potent spiritual component dance could have. During her studies, she was fortunate enough to meet Martha Graham and Graham agreed to be photographed by Morgan as part of a project on modern dance. Later, her family moved to New York and she began photographing children at camp in Lake Placid: Summer’s Children: A Photographic Cycle of Life at Camp (1951). The photograph below is from that series.

Barbara Morgan – Children Dancing By Lake (1940)

Random Images: Gerald Moonen

(Last Updated On July 12, 2021)

New Zealand artist Gerald Moonen appears on our radar because of his fight with New Zealand authorities regarding civil rights and standards of decency. I think all readers will agree that censors went way too far in this case. A critic wrote that the image below would have been acceptable if the subjects were boys! Besides being understandably insulted by this notion (the image is of his own daughters), it happens to be the girls’ own grandmother’s favorite picture of them. It supposedly appeared in a book called Image Dei but I cannot confirm this with internet sources.

Gerald Moonen – From the book Image Dei (c2000)

Moonen wrote a wonderful credo to the Government Administration Committee regarding the interpretation of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act of 1993. It strikes me that this case has the same flavor as that of Graham Ovenden’s.

Random Images: Sashko Milkovich

(Last Updated On July 12, 2021)

Being a repository of images of a particular genre, I frankly don’t know where half these things come from. This could be an image that Pip collected or a lead from a reader and I neglected to note the details. Sashko Milkovich is a Ukrainian wedding photographer. Examining his portfolio, one can see the kinds of images one would expect but it also includes this perplexing image. It is a lovely image of domesticity but not really fitting in the wedding genre. Perhaps Milkovich is trying to exert his artist impulses and the photo does also say something about cultural attitudes in The Ukraine.

Sashko Milkovich – (Untitled) (Date Unknown)

I was curious about the blankets with writing on them. I would be interested to know what they say. Are they just mundane platitudes or some kind of political statement by the artist?

Lorne McKean

(Last Updated On July 2, 2021)

Lorne McKean was born in 1939 and began working in art at age 10 as a model and student of Prince Serge Yourievitch. At age 20 she had two of her sculptures accepted by the Royal Academy. She became Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1972. She has had five Royal commissions, and has sculpted portraits of both Her Majesty and Prince Philip. In 2012 she was chosen as one of ten outstanding UK artists to commemorate the 2012 London Olympic Games by the BT Art of Sport initiative. McKean is very popular with the lay public as well as the art world; many of her works appear in public places. She is married to sculptor Edwin Russell and has two daughters.

Anonymous – Lorne McKean Working on The Girl and the Swan (c1984)

McKean has created many sculptures of people and animals, especially horses. Three of her statues that feature young girls are included in this article. These statues speak for themselves; their artistic merit would be apparent even if the reader did not know of McKean’s many honors. Although the articles in Pigtails are generally very brief and focus on young girls to the exclusion of other things, I thought it would be good for the reader to know a few things about Lorne McKean both for general background and for what it says about young girls in art.

Lorne McKean was a young girl herself, and a child model. She is the mother of girls. She is highly respected by the art community and the public, and has been commissioned multiple times by the Queen, who was also once a young girl, and is the mother of a girl. Since McKean is highly respectable, and has sculpted nude girls, it would seem that there is nothing inherently unrespectable about an artist who creates work involving nude girls. Of course some artists may be involved in reprehensible conduct, but we shouldn’t assume it is typical of all artists. If the Queen approves commissions for an artist whose work includes nude girls, why should lesser ranking individuals in Her Majesty’s government object to Pigtails in Paint, Agapeta, or Graham Ovenden?

The first McKean sculpture in this article is Girl and Swan, on public display on the side of a building on King’s Road, Reading, UK. A girl tries to touch a swan flying overhead.

Lorne McKean – The Girl and the Swan (1984)

Lorne McKean – The Girl and the Swan (1984)

Seated Child, the Artist’s Daughter is a bronze of one of McKean’s two daughters. I could not find out which one. At least one daughter was following in her mother’s footsteps as a child model.

Lorne McKean – Seated Child, the Artist’s Daughter (no date)

Girl With Shell is a fountain at the Willoughby House, Richmond, UK.

Lorne McKean – Girl With Shell (no date)

Maiden Voyages: July 2021

(Last Updated On July 3, 2021)

Since this is the first of the month after Pigtails being reinstated, I felt I should at least do a MV post to get a normal routine going again.

Notice to All Bots: For some reason, the security plugin had a defective Captcha program. I know some of you had trouble leaving a comment. My apologies for that. We had to disable that part of the program. Also, it was not a proper captcha because it was not something that would confound computers. I will be adding a new captcha if the bot traffic starts to become unmanageable again. So far, the spam filter has picked those up so I haven’t had to look at them. If there are any problems with the site, please feel free to leave a message using the contact form.

Database Progress: Currently, I am adding to the ‘Artists by Name’ database. I have now gotten up to the letter ‘L’. If there are any artists not posted or listed in this database with letters before ‘L’, they are not on our radar and should be brought to our attention. Please note that there is a Film Database as well which is pretty complete but will need some revision when the other projects are done.

Take care and be safe. -Ron