Dressed in a black pantsuit and with palette and paintbrush in hand, the artist appears at the far left side of this family portrait. She is joined by her mother, who sits upright in the golden armchair at right, and her sisters, Ettie and Carrie; the former reclines in the chair beside the artist, and the latter flanks the scene at the opposite end, a cigarette between her fingers. An artist, set designer, and poet, Stettheimer led a New York salon where she entertained her family and a close circle of artists, critics, and curators, exhibiting her work and sharing her poems.
Signs of her 1930s Manhattan milieu abound in this painting’s backdrop—an imagined skyline that features the Art Deco skyscraper at the heart of Rockefeller Center, known today as the Comcast Building, as well as Radio City Music Hall, the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, and a dragon-adorned decorative fragment from Alwyn Court, the midtown apartment building where the artist lived and worked. Overtaking these monumental and modern structures, Stettheimer depicted a trio of fantastically enormous blooming flowers at the painting’s center. She was unabashedly proud of this unconventional and personal portrait, frequently referring to the painting as “my masterpiece.”
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
An artist, playwright, set designer, and poet, Stettheimer led a Manhattan salon where she entertained, exhibited her work, and shared her poems with her favored circle of artists. In Family Portrait, II, she combines images of herself, her sisters (who ran the salon with her), and her mother with symbolic elements wittily representing their individual personality traits. Among those she chose for herself are the RCA building (30 Rockefeller Center, known today as the GE Building) and Radio City Music Hall, each identifiable by the text the artist has inscribed on it. In focusing on her family, the painting typifies Stettheimer's concern with the personal, which seems to have endlessly inspired her. Her attention to detail extended to choosing the frames that would best set off her vibrant paintings—in this case an unusual construction of white wicker.
Gallery label from American Modern: Hopper to O'Keeffe, August 17, 2013–January 26, 2014.