CM: Clarence R. Mattei was an unparalleled draughtsman of portraits. His skills were largely owed to the fact that between 1904 and 1908 he attended the Académie Julian in Paris, one of the most significant art institutes in Europe. This school emphasized the linear tradition, order and discipline, which did not make it particularly popular with the Impressionists and up-coming Modernists, even though the likes of Marcel Duchamp and Henri Matisse had studied there. Mattei studied under Jean-Paul Laurens, whose emphasis was on the mastery of techniques and balance in composition. The discipline learned under his tutelage further refined Mattei's skills. Mattei had an eye for portrait work, and recorded the likeness in any medium with facility and speed. His portrait of Frances Rich captures the spirit of a 16-year-old girl that was to become a vibrant sculptress. The bust is frontal, but the head is in three-quarter view turning to her left. Her short, dark, curly hair is parted on the right. Her lips are slightly parted as if about to utter words. The masterful execution with charcoal combines fine and condensed lines on the face with loose strokes further away on the bust.
The original portrait, after being loaned to Jane Mueller for an exhibition, was then donated to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum by the Frances L. Rich Trust executor, Mr. Robert H. Allen. The present portrait in the ACG Art collection is a very fine period facsimile, bearing an original dedication of Frances to her mother, Irene.
[Megakles Rogakos 01/2009]
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Frances Rich - La Gazelle 2010 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens