Peggy Bacon is well known for her acerbic caricatures from the 1920s and ‘30s. After the success of her book Off With Their Heads!, completed with support from a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1934, Bacon abandoned caricature, frustrated by some of her subjects’ displeasure with her unflattering renditions of them. Bacon’s personal feelings for her sitters did not keep her from making “spicy and clairvoyant comment[s]” (as she once wrote) about them via their portraits—Bacon admired Marsden Hartley as an older, well-accomplished artist, yet still lampoons his unique visage in this caricature, exaggerating his droopy countenance and beakish nose.
Randall Griffey—a noted scholar of Hartley’s work—donated this caricature in honor of Charles Eldredge, Hall Distinguished Professor of American Art and Culture, University of Kansas. Eldredge, who introduced Griffey to Hartley’s work and advised his dissertation, began his own studies in American art here at Amherst College under the tutelage of Professor and Mead Director Charles Morgan.
Griffey donated this drawing at the conclusion of his tenure as Curator of American Art and Head of Curatorial Affairs at the Mead Art Museum, during which time he helped usher numerous outstanding artworks into the collection, including many in this exhibition.