PRISCILLA WARREN ROBERTS (1916–2001)
Home of the Artist, about 1944–45
Oil on wood panel, 35 3/8 x 29 1/4 in.
Signed (at lower left): Priscilla Roberts
RECORDED: P[riscilla] Roberts, “Retrospective” [typescript, 1985?], pp. 8–9, 10 illus. // 1946 (New York: Grand Central Art Galleries, 1946), p. 27 illus. as “My Studio”
EXHIBITED: Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1946, Painting in the United States, 1946, no. 215, illus. plate 80 as “Interior (Home of the Artist)” // Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, 1948 // Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, April 18–29, 1961, Priscilla Roberts, no. 14 // Dulin Gallery, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1962 // IBM Gallery, New York, 1963, Realism: An American Heritage, no. 45, as “Home of the Artist” // Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, 1997, The Discerning Eye: Masterpieces from Katonah Collections // Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, 1981, Priscilla Roberts: Magic Realist, p. 9 no. 4
EX COLL: the artist; to [Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, 1946]; to Corporate Art Collection of International Business Machines of New York, 1946–68; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1968]; to private collection, 1968 until the present
An early work in Roberts’s oeuvre, Home of the Artist is one of her few interiors, a theme she explored less frequently after 1950 since they took so long to create. According to the artist, she painted it soon after having executed The Unmade Bed (1944–45; location unknown), a “very messy bedroom scene” that upset her staid parents so much that she wanted to make amends by creating a more “dignified interior."
In Home of the Artist, Robert depicts a portion of her studio in the Van Dyke building. Indeed, employing a tightly cropped design that establishes an immediate connection between the image and the viewer, Robert presents us with a view of a section of a narrow room adorned with an assemblage of objects, some of a utilitarian nature, others purely decorative. Juxtaposed in a narrow space illuminated in the upper right by a softly glowing light emanating thorough an adjacent window, each component of the composition bears a note of individuality, whether it be the violin lying on the settee, the small book propped up like a tent on the nearby table, the cuckoo clock, or the tiny statuette of the cat that occupies the central register, its presence adding a whimsical note to the image while attesting to the artist’s well-known love of cats. According to Roberts, the statues of the pheasant and the duck were two of her earliest thrift shop purchases, while the “somewhat peculiar perspective” of the scene was due to the fact that her studio only ten or twelve feet across. Certainly, the image represents a world unto itself, rightly intended, as the title suggests, to reveal an aspect of the artist’s personal biography.
Home of the Artist made its debut at the Carnegie Institute’s exhibition, Painting in the United States, 1946, in the autumn of 1946. As well as demonstrating the artist’s technical virtuosity and highly personal nature of her art, this intimate painting holds a special place in Roberts’s career: it was one of the first paintings she took to Grand Central after joining the gallery and the first work of hers that sold.