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Mrs. Thomas Hastings

John White Alexander1901

National Academy of Design

National Academy of Design

Painted in New York shortly after his return from over ten years in France, Mrs. Thomas Hastings immediately became one of Alexander's most celebrated portraits. It was critically praised for its elegance and vitality, and for being more than a mere likeness, presenting an abstracted blend of softened color and calligraphic line. The sitter, the former Helen Benedict, was the wife of the architect Thomas Hastings and a well-known socialite. Behind the figure is a cast related to the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The shadowy lines of the sculpture correspond to Hastings' sinuous profile and begin the sense of dynamic movement continued by her rising figure. Alexander commented in 1909 that as a piece of art, "the Winged Victory is the most superb female figure in the world." His juxtaposition encourages the viewer to see the same characteristics he found in the Winged Victory - strength, dignity, and freedom of movement - in his portrayal of Helen Hastings.

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