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Among the most esteemed members of "The Philadelphia Ten," a group of young women artists including Fern Isabel Coppedge, Nancy Maybin Freguson and Harriet Whitney Frishmuth who exhibited together between the years of 1917 and 1945, Emma Fordyce MacRae (1887-1974) developed a distinct and singular manner of painting that was wholly her own. By drawing upon the aesthetic influences of Japanese art and Renaissance painting and updating them with a modernist's sensibility, MacRae created a visually harmonious and striking style that was at once both timeless and modern.nce both timeless and modern.
Born in Vienna in 1887, Emma Fordyce MacRae was raised in New York City and enrolled in the Art Students League in 1911. By the time she joined the Philadelphia Ten in 1937, MacRae had already established herself as an artist of note, exhibiting widely in New York, Boston and elsewhere in New England, and winning awards from organizations such as the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, and the Allied Artists of America. Her work was widely acclaimed; the critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, for example, wrote of her work "unusualthe most alluring we have seen for many a moon" and commented on its "quality of decoration which is eminently gratifying." (as quoted in P. Talbott and P.T. Sydney, The Philadelphia Ten: A Women Artist's Group 1917-1945, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1998, p. 153)lvania, 1998, p. 153)
Though she traveled and painted in locales all over the world, it was Emma Fordyce MacRae was influenced by the writings of Arthur Wesley Dow, whose book Composition introduced students to Japanese concepts in art. Using elegantly linear, flat forms, each object in her still lifes is artfully placed, and her compositions reflect a sense of tranquil, subdued color while also dazzling the viewer with an extraordinary sense of pattern and surface texture. In her still lifes she creates a visual relationship between her objects, and utilizes the aesthetic of planar flatness that is a hallmark of Japanese printmaking, integrating the background and objects in a modernist manner.rms and patterns. Though she populates her works with figures, a quiet stillness and overall sense of harmony and calm is favored over Emma Fordyce MacRae often incorporated the texture and sur
The paintings of Emma Fordyce MacRae interweave elements of both past and present, of liveliness and quietude, of representation and abstraction, all in her own unique and distinctive manner. Complexly composed and yet elegantly simplified, these works evince a masterful sense of composition and a sense of style that was uniquely her own. Christie's is delighted to offer these three exceptional paintings by Emma MacRae, which exemplify the artist's best work in still life and landscape painting.hetic of planar flatness that is a hallmark of Japanese printmaking, integrating the background and objects in a modernist manner.
MacRae often incorporated the texture and surface of her supports into her compositions by purposefully leaving areas exposed, integral to the overall aesthetic of her work. MacRae would begin by layering gesso on her support creating a hard, plaster-like surface. She would often then sketch her subject with a black chalk or pencil, leaving the outlines of this underdrawing visible in her final composition. By leaving areas of the canvas or masonite visible under her thinly applied paint layer, MacRae created a chalky, mottled aesthetic which evokes a timeless feeling of an Italian fresco or tapestry. She would also scrape away the paint and leave her surfaces unvarnished, further playing up their decorative qualities.
The paintings of Emma MacRae interweave elements of both past and present, of liveliness and quietude, of representation and abstraction, all in her own unique and distinctive manner. Complexly composed and yet elegantly simplified, these works evince a sense of style that was uniquely her own. Christie's is delighted to offer these three exceptional paintings by Emma MacRae, which exemplify the artist's best work in still life and landscape painting.
Cape Ann Museum, Emma Fordyce MacRae, N.A., 1887 - 1974, exhibition catalogue, Gloucester, Massachusetts, 2008, p. 20, no. 23, illustrated.
K.E. Quinn, "Paintings of Emma Fordyce MacRae, N.A. (1887-1974)," American Art Review, vol. XX, no. 2, March 2008, p. 75, illustrated.
Gloucester, Massachusetts, Cape Ann Museum, Emma Fordyce MacRae, N.A. 1887 - 1974, March 1-July 20, 2008, no. 23.