Collection 1880s–1940s

Florine Stettheimer. Family Portrait, II. 1933 523

Oil on canvas in artist's frame, 46 1/4 x 64 5/8" (117.4 x 164 cm). Gift of Miss Ettie Stettheimer. © Estate of Florine Stettheimer

Curator, Anne Umland: Florine Stettheimer was a set designer, a theater script writer, a poet, an interior decorator. At the very left you see a woman in a black pantsuit with red shoes holding a palette and that is Florine Stettheimer's image of herself. She wanted to create a new way of making portraits that wasn't necessarily naturalistic.

In the middle you encounter these three really monstrously large flowers, a poppy, a lily, and a rose. And then in the background suddenly you realize it's not so clear whether you're inside or outside. It looks like a beautiful blue sunny day, an ocean view, and then in front of that ocean, are all these ghostly images of buildings.

There’s the Chrysler Building, so that suggests you're outside. The chandelier, that suggests you're inside, Statue of Liberty that suggests you're on Ellis Island. And then up in the upper right corner is an architectural motif from the apartment building where Florine, her mother, and her two sisters lived.

The Stettheimers were famous in New York for throwing parties. And to those parties came everyone who was anybody in New York's avant-garde. People from the theater, from the literary world, from the fashion world. So she depicts herself as an artist, but reminds you in other ways of all the other different roles she played—as a daughter, as a sister, and then as a hostess of these fabulous salons—someone who was a part of the fabric of New York City.