Albright’s model may wear a stately costume (actually an old fur coat turned inside out, according to the artist) but her flesh is harshly lit from above to seem sagging and gray. The artist was undoubtedly influenced by his experience making medical illustrations for the U.S. Army during World War I, and a sense of the frailty and ultimate decay of the human body pervades this painting. Albright made Woman in Warrenville, Illinois, where he used a former Methodist church as a studio. A local woman posed as his model; rather than transforming her into an idealized image of femininity, he treated her as a dour symbol of the aging body and the enervating forces of life.
Gallery label from American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe, August 17, 2013–January 26, 2014.