Alice Bailly1917

National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Aside from the figure’s three-quarter-turn pose, this painting presents an avant-garde version of the traditional artist’s self-portrait. Through her training and travels, Alice Bailly became attuned to many vital European art movements of the early 20th century. Her apartment in Geneva was a popular meeting place for artists, poets, and musicians, but she did not identify with any particular movement. Her painting style is an amalgam of many approaches.

Her self-portrait’s red, orange, and blue hues echo the palette of Fauve paintings. (In 1906, when she entered a canvas depicting a mother and child in Paris’s Salon d’Automne, organizers hung it in the Fauve section.) The arching lines forming her hands and arms echo Italian Futurist art.

Bailly embraced the insouciance of Dada in this portrait by carefully delineating her breasts, the buttons of her jacket, and her signature bob haircut while painting out the entire right side of her face. As she did with her contemporaneous stitched-wool works, Bailly painted intuitively and additively. She paired dissonant colors, conjoined geometric and organic shapes, and juxtaposed cleanly outlined forms with choppily brushed passages of paint to form highly dynamic images.

Show lessRead more


  • Title: Self-Portrait
  • Creator: Alice Bailly
  • Date: 1917
  • selected exhibition history:Alice Bailly: Exposition du Centenaire,” Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland, 1933; “Alice Bailly: Exposition du Centenaire,” Musée de l’Athénée, Geneva, Switzerland, 1932
  • artist profile: Alice Bailly was one of Switzerland’s most radical painters in the early decades of the 20th century. By 1906, Bailly had settled in Paris, where she became friends with many avant-garde modernist painters, including Juan Gris, Francis Picabia, and Marie Laurencin. While she was exhibiting her early wood engravings in Paris, Fauvism came to the fore. Bailly was inspired by the style’s bold use of intense colors, dark outlines, and emphatically unrealistic anatomy and space. In 1908, her new paintings hung at the Salon d’Automne alongside the art of the principal Fauve painters. Continuing her stylistic experimentation, Bailly developed her own variation of Cubism. In 1912, her work was chosen to represent Switzerland in a traveling exhibition seen in Russia, England, and Spain. When World War I broke out, Bailly returned to Switzerland, where she invented “wool paintings,” mixed-media works in which short strands of colored yarn imitated brush strokes. Bailly was briefly active in the Dada phenomenon. She moved to Lausanne in 1923 and stayed there the rest of her life, continuing to exhibit regularly and promote the cause of modern art. In 1936, Bailly accepted a commission to paint eight large murals for the foyer of the Theatre of Lausanne. This monumental task led to exhaustion, which presumably made Bailly more susceptible to the tuberculosis that claimed her life two years later.
  • Style: Cubism; Dada; Fauvism; Futurism
  • Physical Dimensions: w23.5 x h32 in (Without frame)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • External Link: National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Medium: Oil on canvas