Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903)
Property from an Important Private Collection
Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903)

Lake at Oodeypore, India

Details
Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903)
Lake at Oodeypore, India
oil on canvas laid down
30 x 49 7/8 in. (76.2 x 126.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1893.
Provenance
Private collection, New York.
Anonymous sale; Mark Lawson, Saratoga Springs, NY, 15 November 2007, lot 33.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

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Laura H. Mathis
Laura H. Mathis Specialist, Head of Sale

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Lot Essay

Edwin Lord Weeks was perhaps the most famous and accomplished American Orientalist painter of the 19th century. The artist’s talent was recognized from a young age, and with the help of his affluent parents he was able to travel widely throughout his life. It was these travels and the paintings he made of the places he visited – within Europe and the Americas, but more significantly in Morocco, North Africa, the Near East, Persia and India – that would come to define his career.
India held a tremendous fascination for Weeks and the artist ultimately made three journeys to the subcontinent - in 1882, 1886 and 1892. His paintings of Indian life brought him wealth and fame in both France and America and they became his specialty. The present work is datable to the years around Weeks's last trip to India, and the artist was known to have been in Udaipur (then Oodeypore) in early 1893. Taken from a view from a ghat which leads down to the water’s edge of Pinchola Lake, Weeks focuses in the foreground on several women bathing and carrying water jugs to fill, and behind them a more elaborately dressed group of women gathering around a sadhu-like figure. The painting is highly unusual in that it features nude and revealingly dressed young women, which would have been an uncommon sight in India, particularly for a traveling Western male artist. These women are idealized subjects, painted in a manner which slightly eroticizes them; they seem more like nautch girls, or dancers, than everyday water carriers or domestic workers.
Weeks’s own writings from this final trip record a scene that may have inspired the figures in present painting: 'A few low steps lead down to the blue waters of the Pinchola Lake...Its horizon of gardens and hills beyond is interrupted only by the fantastic silhouettes of the island palaces, which seem to float between water and sky... Just now the platform behind us and the steps are crowded with women and young girls, babies and children, all either bathing or washing their brazen water jars, chattering, gossiping, laughing, or lying about in the genial afternoon sunshine of January, and not at all in a hurry to finish their work or go home...' (E. L. Weeks, From the Black Sea through Persia and India, New York, 1896, pp. 270-71). In the background the façade of the Jag Niwas, one of the water palaces of Udaipur, which the artist documents taking a boat out to visit personally in his writings, dominates the landscape.
A letter of authentication from Dr. Ellen K. Morris dated 1 October 2007 accompanies this painting.
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