Florine Stettheimer’s Studio Party and the Art of Conversation
Between 1917 and 1919, Florine Stettheimer created a painting inspired by the salons that took place in her New York studio. In Studio Party, numerous artists and creative figures mingle around her studio inspecting her newly unveiled artwork. Scholars have attended to Stettheimer’s “naïve” style and have argued that this work and others look to the subject matter and mis en abyme technique in Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656), which pictures the artist working on a painting of the King and Queen of Spain, as evidenced in the reflection in the mirror in the background, while court members wait on their daughter to the right of Velázquez. By contrast, my thesis analyzes the work in the context of Stettheimer’s dual roles as artist and salonnière. Drawing on the history of portraiture and early twentieth-century debates about artistic practice, I argue that Studio Party is a group portrait that represents the impact of conversation and, thereby, salons on artistic practice. In this way, Stettheimer championed her role as a salonnière and asserted her status as an artist, but also countered traditional notions of the lone male artist-genius.