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President Mary Emma Woolley


John White Alexander (American, 1856-1915), President Mary Emma Woolley, ca. 1909
Photo Credit: 


Not On View
Alexander, John White
American (1856-1915)
Place made: 
North America; United States
President Mary Emma Woolley, ca. 1909
Oil on canvas
frame: 135.89 cm x 110.49 cm; 53 1/2 in x 43 1/2 in; stretcher: 49 1/4 x 39 5/8 in.; 125.095 x 100.6475 cm
Gift of the Class of 1909
MH 1911.5.I(b).PI

Mary Woolley is an emblem of elegance in this portrait by John White Alexander. Feathery brushstrokes and delicate shadows make her prestigious, dark robes weightlessly cascade off the canvas and highlight her dignified facial expression. Woolley lightly thumbs a book with one hand while holding a poised fist with the other, possibly an allusion to her knowledge and composed passion. Alexander’s portrait of Woolley demonstrates a trend among male artists of this era, who often painted women as domestic, inwardly emotional beings with exquisite exterior refinement.

-Katia Kiefaber '17, Art Museum Advisory Board Fellow, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Nov. 2017)