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 Jean (McLane) MacLane  (1878 - 1964)

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Lived/Active: New York/Massachusetts/Connecticut/Illinois      Known for: portrait, figure and genre painting, illustration

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Jean McLane
from Auction House Records.
Beach Life, Devonshire
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Lawrence Cantor Fine Art:

Jean McLane was born on September 14, 1878 in Chicago and died on January 23, 1964 in New Canaan, Connecticut.  Her first studies were with John Vanderpoel at the Art Institute of Chicago.   She later studied with Frank Duveneck in Cincinnati, Ohio.  MacLane later moved to New York to study with William Merritt Chase.  Chase was the first to purchase a painting of her early works.

McLane and her husband, artist John C. Johansen (1876-1964) help found the National Foundation of Portrait Painters in 1912.  In that same year, she was invited by a group of philanthropists to depict the Allied Leaders from World War I.  McLane provided the only female subject, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.  This painting now hangs in the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.  Also in 1912, she was elected associate member of the National Academy of Design and a full academician in 1926.

McLane became noted for her portraits of women and children.  In 1931, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Her portrait of actor William Gillette hangs at the Academy.

Awards:
Bronze Medal, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, 1904
First Prize, International League, Paris, 1907 & 8
Elling Prize, New York Women's Art Club, 1907
Burgess Prize, New York Women's Art Club, 1908
Julia Shaw Prize, National Academy of Design, 1912
Third Hallgarten Prize, National Academy of Design, 1913
Lippincott Prize, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1914
Silver Medal, Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, 1915
Harris Silver Medal and Prize, Art Institute Chicago, 1924

Museums:
Museum of Art, Toledo
Art Institute of Chicago
San Antonio Museum, Texas
Syracuse Art Museum, New York
National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.

Following is text from an interview with the artist by Ernest W. Watson, January 1940.

"Jean McLane, an American Painter with a Virile Brush" 

"The attitude of the artist toward his work is to use all he is or ever hopes to be in the focus of this hour's need."

These words of Jean MacLane, spoken several years ago and jotted down in my notebook, come to mind now as I review the career of this brilliant American artist. If we substitute for "work" the word "life" we have a really complete outline of the design underlying both her life and work. Indeed it is impossible for me to write only about the art of Jean MacLane.  What she has done with her brush is so eloquently indebted to what she has done with her life.  While of course no one can say what direction her work might have taken had she not become wife, mother and homemaker, we can now rejoice in an art that has the breadth and depth of unusual fulfillment.

Before her marriage in 1905 to John C. Johansen, noted portrait, painter, Miss MacLane had already established her own reputation as a portrait painter, a reputation that grew rapidly during ensuing years, years that were devoted in part to the rearing of a family and the making of a home.

She and her husband together created conditions under which they could build for those things they wanted most-a family and a home; a home founded upon a true and happy relationship, with freedom to express them, each more fully, through his chosen medium.  That this has been accomplished at no sacrifice to Miss MacLane’s art is because such an enrichment of life added immeasurably to her power with her brush.  Those very hours given to domestic concerns were as fruitful for her art as for the welfare of her family.  From the cradle up through the years her youngsters were constantly sketched and painted.  Hundreds of drawings and scores of canvases record those joyous years of loving and painting, when, as she has said, she wished for three lives to devote to children: "One in which to supply their every need, one in which to be entirely free to paint them, and one just to bask in the miracle of them!"

There seems never to have been a conflict in Jean McLane’s life between devotion to the ordering and functioning of the home on the one hand and her portrait commissions on the other.  She made it an almost unbroken rule that her sitters come to her studio for sittings where she could be in constant touch with the needs of her family.

Many of her commissions, as might be expected, were for portraits of children and family groups.  Among the prominent women she painted during those years were Mrs. George Pratt, with her daughter; Mrs. John H. Hammond and her daughter, and Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians. Although known principally as a painter of women and children, some of her most distinguished work is seen in portraits of men: Brand Whitlock, Richard Cabot, Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr., and William Gillett, to name a few.

Just how Jean MacLane managed to find spare hours for paintings other than portraits is something of a mystery; yet her canvases were constantly seen in the galleries; were taking prizes in the big shows; and were being acquired by art museums.

There is, in the art world today a fear of the word beauty; that fear is seen in the dreariness of many paintings that hang on too many gallery walls. Jean MacLane is not afraid of beauty.  She declares that, "Great art is the search for the permanent beauty through all the fleeting aspects of the world about us." While she is quick to assert that, "There are certainly no closed standards of art . . . of beauty; for it is the result the honest search for eternal fact in life," yet she insists that "art being universal, should speak to all, not to an exclusive few. Art's message is always the assurance which man is forever seeking, reaffirmation of the perfect whole . . . the friendliness of the Universe.

"No wonder most people find art difficult to understand;" declares Miss McLane, "the would-be leaders have done their worst to make these things mysterious and to appear beyond the reach of honest people with a thirst for realities. Rather, he who burns with a message is conscious of his fearful responsibility of presenting it in so direct and simple a form that it cannot be misunderstood."

Fifteen years ago Jean MacLane's pictures were considered daring, even somewhat radical: startling in their brilliant coloring, their design, their exuberance. But hers is not the kind of art that makes good copy for the newspapers today. It is not controversial, it is not sensational, it is not incomprehensible, and it is not propaganda. Well, perhaps it is propaganda; propaganda for the virtues of wholesomeness, dignity and sound craftsmanship. We can stand a lot of that propaganda.

Jean McLane was born in Chicago though her ancestors were of early New England stock.  She believes that Chicago gave her something important, during those eighteen years before the family moved east: a tremendous love of hard work which was the spirit of that vigorously growing city.  There she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago with John Vanderpoel and Frank Duveneck, to whom she owes much, though her style and manner have become thoroughly her own.

There was little income to establish a working studio when she came East and there were years at that time when she illustrated books, articles and book jackets for Scribner's and Harper's to pay the rent and material bills, at the same time that she kept large canvases going in her studio.

After her marriage, she and Mr. Johansen spent two years abroad studying and working in France, Italy and England.  Then came the long; productive years in America interrupted by occasional trips abroad with the entire family.  It was in Rome in 1925 that I first met the Johansen’s, and it was characteristic of their hospitality that, seeing me, a fellow-American (though a stranger) in their hotel lobby, they introduced themselves at once and invited me to have tea with them. That was the first of many such occasions: in Florence, Assisi, Venice and Paris, at points where our itineraries met.  From many notes of Jean MacLane’s conversation over the tea table, I have selected a few that reveal something of her constructive philosophy of life and art:

"Whatever is to enrich the world must always be from that which is not of the world. Is not art itself, from its earliest beginnings, enough proof that man is in possession of an inner vision?

It is that inner quality which must be given a better chance. We must never be afraid of it. It may prove to be our only possession after all.

We are all trying to express through our chosen medium that order of beauty, that glimpse of eternal fact which we ourselves have witnessed. No matter how perfectly others have done it, still it remains to the healthy creative mind forever unsaid. We must concentrate like a wireless operator until we get the message over.

The artist must never think what they will think. He must follow the urge within, rather than the lure without.

Abandonment can rightly be used only by those painters who have learned the freedom of technique by years of experience and practice.

There is one truth of the outer eye and another truth of that inner vision of a man, drawn from the sum of all his knowledge of life.

Plan for the whole of the canvas to break into song."

Perhaps this last quotation is the most characteristic comment that can be made about Jean McLane’s own work.

Last summer when I visited Jean MacLane’s studio on Weyburne Hill in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, there was on her easel the under painting for a portrait she was doing in a technique borrowed from the Italian masters. This painting, which later was to glow with the full-bodied coloring of her blonde sitter, was laid-in with tones of cool, greenish gray.

The painting was done on a pressed wood panel which the artist herself prepared with the following ground.  Recipe: Mix equal parts of precipitated chalk, mastic varnish and zinc white in a glass jar. The zinc white can be secured either in powder or ground in oil (the regular artist's oil color in tubes).

Spread this ground with a palette knife on the pressed wood panel, or on canvas or on other painting surfaces; and when it has dried, sand it smooth. Apply another coat of ground in the opposite direction and sand again. Some artists insist upon a very smooth ground; others prefer a ground with some texture. This can be controlled. Keep the grounding mixture fresh for future use by covering it with water.

The panel is now ready for the under painting.  But first, Miss MacLane recommends a thorough preparatory study of the subject. Since the making of changes is more laborious and time-consuming in this method, it is well for the artist to have his problems pretty well thought-out in advance. This he can accomplish in preliminary oil studies on canvas.

The under painting is done with oil colors (using turpentine as medium) in a gray monotone.  Miss MacLane uses a cool greenish gray because this is a good undertone for the warmer hues that will be overlaid.  This under painting establishes the drawing and the essential pattern of the picture, but it will be noted that the tones are rather flat and do not attempt to define details; these are left for the water color glazes that follow.

After the under painting has thoroughly dried, the study is ready for the water color. Dry pigments, usually put up in glass jars, may be secured from the art supply dealers. For the tempering solution (which is needed to bind the pigments to the panel) Miss MacLane uses a mixture of whole egg and water, equal parts of each.

Little piles of the dried colors are put out upon the palette, and the brush, moistened in water or egg tempera solution or both-is dipped into the color and mixed on the palette as needed. This point will doubtless be a bit confusing to a student, who will ask why one should use clear water as well as the tempering solution-which is a combination of water and egg, presumably in proper portions. The answer is that every artist has his own way of working, arrived at by much experimenting. Miss McLane declares that she changes her method slightly in every new picture. Certainly she, uses less of the egg solution than most artists, and she prefers to put her color on in as thin washes as possible.

The water color is applied over the under painting (with sable or other soft brushes) in transparent washes. The colors are built up with successive glazes. But after each wash has been applied it must be protected by alcohol varnish (really a strong fixative) before other glazes can be added. The alcohol varnish, put on with a soft brush, dries very quickly and does not delay the painting.


As the work proceeds, it occasionally becomes necessary to change the drawing or lighten various color areas. To do this, the ground (the same as used for preparing the panel) is painted over the parts in question as a fresh foundation for the new painting. This white ground takes the place of opaque white tempera which is not used at all in this method.

When the painting is finished, the alcohol varnish is applied all over. to protect the last glazes and to give the picture a uniform surface finish.


Biography from Roughton Galleries,Inc:
Jean MacLane was born on September 14, 1878 in Chicago, and died on January 23, 1964 in New Canaan, Connecticut.  Her first studies were with John Vanderpoel at the Art Institute of Chicago.  She later studied with Frank Duveneck in Cincinnati, Ohio.  MacLane later moved to New York to study with William Merritt Chase.  He was the first person to purchase a painting of her early works.

MacLane and her husband, artist John C. Johansen, (1876-1964) help found the National Foundation of Portrait Painters in 1912.  In that same year, she was invited by a group of philanthropists to depict the Allied Leaders from W.W. I.  McLane provided the only female subject, Queen Elisabeth of Belgians.  This painting now hangs in the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.

Also in 1912, she was elected associate member of the National Academy of Design and a full academician in 1926.

McLane became noted for her portraits of women and children.  In 1931, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Her portrait of actor William Gillette hangs at the Academy.

Public Collections:
Museum of Art, Toledo
Art Institute of Chicago
San Antonio Museum, Texas
Syracuse Art Museum, New York
National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.

Awards:
Bronze Medal, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, 1904
First Prize, International League, Paris, 1907-08
Elling Prize, New York Women's Art Club, 1907
Burgess Prize, New York Women's Art Club, 1908
Julia Shaw Prize, National Academy of Design, 1912
Third Hallgarten Prize, National Academy of Design, 1913
Lippincott Prize, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1914
Silver Medal, Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, 1915
Harris Silver Medal and Prize, Art Institute Chicago, 1924

Biography from Askart.com:
The following is from information sent by Ann Cox of Louisville, Kentucky, who became interested in this artist while living in Washington DC.

Jean MacLane was a portrait and figure painter who was a member of the National Academy of Design, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Association of Portrait Painters and the American Water Color Club.  In New York she exhibited at The Grand Central Galleries and Knoedler's and in Washington DC at the Corcoran Gallery.

MacLane was born in Chicago and married to artist John C Johansen, also a portrait painter.  She was a student of John Vanderpoel at the Art Institute of Chicago and of Frank Duveneck and William Merritt Chase.  She had studios in New York and Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Looking at pictures by Jean MacLane makes people feel good.  All the intellectual elements abound to transport the connoisseur: flawless draftsmanship, vibrant colors, and ingenious composition.  Beyond that, however, goes the exuberance she brings to painting her subject matter, which centers on women and children.  So genuine is her pleasure that she convinces members of the worn old human race that it can yet be beautiful and new.

Myrtle McLane had decided that the name given her when she was born in Chicago on September 14, 1878 would never do for the artist she was certain of becoming, and so the young girl changed into Jean MacLane (alternatively spelled "McLane" into the 1920s).  Her hometown furnished her mid-teens with the artistic wonderland that was the World's Columbian Exposition, where the encouraging Woman's Building featured murals by Mary Cassatt and Mary Fairchild MacMonnies.

John Vanderpoel was her chief instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago, from which she graduated in 1897.  Impressionism, which from its early notoriety had by now grown so established that it was taught in art schools, would remain the basis of her varying styles.  Although she could hardly become one of the "Duveneck boys" who followed their master through Europe, Frank Duveneck treated her as teacher's pet when she came to Cincinnati.  Around the turn of the century, Maclane settled permanently in New York City, where she studied next under William Merritt Chase.  Among the first to buy one of her pictures, he predicted that "some of the work of Jean MacLane will later be as much admired as are the works of the best English painters of like subjects."

John Christen Johansen, her admirer since Myrtle days, married Jean MacLane on October 5, 1905.  His education as a painter had recently included the Academie Julian in Paris plus a brief stint with James A. M. Whistler, while earlier studies paralleled "hers at the Art Institute of Chicago, and then under Duveneck at Cincinnati.  Copenhagen had been Johansen's birthplace on November 25, 1876, before he was brought to Chicago as an infant.  The newlyweds set themselves up in the first of their adjoining yet separate studios in New York and wherever else they painted together.  Summers would be spent in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and any sizable payment could send them off instantly on an extended sojourn in Europe. Their mutual specialty was portraiture.

Nearly all the painters of their era made portraits, which provided the livelihood that teaching does today.  Of course some painters preferred portraits to landscapes, still lifes, or other branches of the art.  What headed such artists in that direction was a natural fascination with the human spirit as revealed through its bodily form. Although attempting to capture the expected likeness of the sitter, they also tried to catch the inner self.  Required were not only a talent for the métier, but also an instinct for character, as well as the intelligence to explore the subject's interests. Talent, instinct, and intelligence seem a fair description of Jean MacLane.

While her husband painted men, his wife portrayed women and children, despite exceptions as in her 1933 picture of actor William Gillette in the collection of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, to which she had been elected two years earlier.  Her portraits entered a special category because of how women (and men) were then regarded and children are still.  Although men could be depicted with the furrows they wore as a badge of their achievement, women strove not to show forth individuality, but to exemplify femininity.  Similarly, children have not yet acquired their own personalities fully, so that the quality sought from them is the spontaneity of youth.  While a woman such as Frances Perkins, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, which owns the likeness, could be painted in 1934 for her accomplishments, portraits of women and children tended to be decorative.

Painters paint all the time, for even when not holding a brush, they are at least wondering in the back of their minds how they would paint every sight they see. Jean MacLane's predilection for the human form in decorative terms dominated no less her works that are not strictly portraits.  Women and children fill such early canvases as her series of New York street scenes.  Duveneck's dutiful disciple adopted the dramatic realism derived from his Munich training.  Reminiscent also of the illustrations of N. C. Wyeth, these pictures almost tell a story.

Quickly her paintings emerged into the open air that the art of the young century was breathing.  White-the hardest color to handle since it is all colors-she conquered no less than other translucent hues that elicit freshness.  Water was often a cleansing symbol in the shape of sea or bath or fountain.  Because her figures were decorative, each received a stylish elegance whether rich or poor. 

Soon after beginning this middle period, she produced a daughter Margaret and then a son, John, who evidently spent the better part of their childhood posing.  In 1912 her husband and she were among the 27 artists that founded the National Association of Portrait Painters, which gave annual shows of their works, only just becoming appreciated for more than the fame of the sitters.  When a group of philanthropists commissioned eight American portraitists, including the couple, to depict 22 Allied leaders from World War 1, she contributed the lone likeness of a woman, Elisabeth, Queen of the Belgians, which is today in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art.

By necessity her portraits could not wander too far a field, yet her passion to arrange figures into decorative compositions reached dizzying heights in her personal painting.  Amid geometrical abstractions of rocks and hills, human forms ceased to strike purposeful poses.  From her early genre work she had progressed to pure beauty. Possibly because she had pushed her search to its limits, she stopped painting at World War 11.  Her long list of important exhibitions had been matched by the many prestigious awards garnered throughout her career. In 1912 the National Academy of Design had made her an associate and a full academician in 1926.  Her paintings belonged to the museums of Chicago, Indianapolis, Syracuse, and Toledo.

During their last years the Johansens lived in their daughter's home at New Canaan, Connecticut.  Aged 85, Jean MacLane died on January 23, 1964.  Bereft of his partner from the studio next door, her husband finished his final portrait at age 87. His death followed hers by five months to the day.


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