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Me

Eulabee Dixca. 1899

National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts

“Me” illustrates Eulabee Dix’s talent with the demanding watercolor-on-ivory medium. Rosalba Carriera had developed the technique in 18th-century Venice. In early 19th-century America, artists such as Anna Claypoole Peale helped make watercolor-on-ivory miniatures the favored means of capturing the likeness of a loved one. By the end of the Civil War, however, inexpensive and equally portable photographic portraits had supplanted miniatures in popularity.

Unlike photography, watercolor on ivory was an extraordinarily painstaking process and yielded a fragile artwork not easily replicated. The ivory had to be soaked, cut thin, flattened, and then abraded so the watercolor would adhere to the surface. Throughout preparation and painting, the artist had to take care not to shatter the thin slice of ivory.

This self-portrait is considered an excellent likeness of Dix, resembling written descriptions and photographs of the artist. Rendered about the time she relocated from her family’s home in Grand Rapids to New York City, the image captures her appraising gaze and youthful self-confidence.

A close look at the miniature reveals the different brushstrokes Dix used to render her likeness—myriad tiny dots, or stippling, for the highly detailed face and broader strokes for the scarf and blouse.

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  • Title: Me
  • Creator: Eulabee Dix
  • Date: ca. 1899
  • selected exhibition history: “Pinturas E Miniaturas de Eulabee Dix,” Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Portugal, 1958
  • artist profile: Eulabee Dix was one of a group of women artists who were instrumental in the miniature revival at the turn of the 20th century. Settling in New York in 1899, Dix studied at The Art Students League, took lessons with the noted miniature painters Isaac A. Josephi and William J. Whittemore, and exhibited with the newly established American Society of Miniature Painters. The miniature revival, of which Dix was a key participant, began in the 1890s. It coincided with American interest in colonial history and the Arts and Crafts movement, which valued handcraft. Dix and others adapted the traditional methods and materials of miniature painting to modern style and subjects. Dix portrayed numerous prominent sitters, including the actresses Ellen Terry and Ethel Barrymore, author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), and photographer Gertrude Käsebier, as well as family and friends. She enjoyed success in Europe, including a 1906 solo exhibition in London and a medal at the 1927 Paris Salon. In 1910, Dix married lawyer Alfred Becker, with whom she had two children. Late in life, she moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga presented a retrospective of her art in 1958.
  • Training: The Art Students League of New York, New York City,1900–02; Private lessons, ca. 1900; St. Louis School of Fine Art, St. Louis, Missouri, 1893–95
  • Physical Dimensions: w2.5 x h3 x d0.5 in
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Gift of Mrs. Philip Dix Becker and family; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • Medium: Watercolor on ivory

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