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Arthur Ignatius Keller

American Artist (1866-1924)

'In the Study'

Oil on board

16 x 25 in.


Keller succeeds in combining oil and watercolor to add texture as well as transparency to his composition.  Sunlight fills the study with a warm radiance, highlighting the numerous folds of the elegant blue dress as well as the decorative elements in the room.  Both women appear to be immersed in search for books of interest, their eyes focused on the written page.  The delicacy of their features and their elegant attire add intimacy and emotional content to the composition.  The scene comes straight out of a Henry James novel, and the nostalgia and tenderness that it evokes speaks to our desire to rediscover this carefree feeling of an afternoon of pleasure. 

Keller was trained at the National Academy of Design in New York, where his talent was quickly recognized.  He won its prestigious First Class Medal, followed by the Philadelphia Art Club Gold Medal and the Paris Exposition of 1900 Silver Medal.  He pursued his artistic studies in Munich in 1890, where his mastery of technique led him to produce exquisite watercolors and graceful, sinuous drawings that were fluent, natural and unaffected.  He returned to the 1892 at a time when book publishing was flourishing, creating a huge demand for illustration.   His early illustrations appeared in Harper's, Colliers and the Ladies Home Journal, followed by commissions to illustrate The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickins.  By 1912, he had illustrated over 50 books and appeared in 600 magazines, leading the Society of Illustrators to state that his work "so full of technical brilliancy, of learning in the value of accent and contrast, in the animating power of spirited brushwork, that one wonders if he might not make dancing compositions without the introduction of solid figures. He has a sense of color, that intuitive feeling for values that is essentially a painterly quality.”

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