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After Sunset
1892

Thomas Wilmer Dewing , (American, 1851-1938)


Oil on canvas
H: 107.0 W: 137.4 cm
United States

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1906.68a

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During the early 1890s Dewing painted a series of landscapes with figures which he referred to as "decorations." After Sunset's two evening-gowned women in a twilight setting are rendered in soft fresco-like tones of green, mauve, and white. While the figures are precise and somewhat linear in execution, the landscape itself is freely painted and the canvas coarsely woven. The artist's subject matter always remained ambiguous, never attempting to convey a message or tell a story. Dewing thought that the public failed to understand these landscape "decorations" as they did his interior scenes with figures. He wrote to Freer, "My decorations belong to the poetic and imaginative world where a few choice spirits live." (Thomas Wilmer Dewing to Charles Lang Freer, February 16, 1901, Freer Gallery of Art Archives.) Not only was the artist trying to establish a mood in his paintings, but the very ambiguity of the mood demanded viewer participation—and an appreciation of beauty for its own sake.