About the Artist
Guy Pène du Bois was an American painter, art critic and educator, of French ancestry, whose unique Ashcan paintings chronicled the social interactions between people in the early twentieth century.
Early Life and Education
Guy Pène du Bois was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1884. His art education began at the New York School of Art in 1899 with William Merritt Chase. Du Bois and fellow students Edward Hopper and George Bellows were in class in 1902, when Robert Henri began to teach at the school and challenged them to go out and paint what they saw in the real world, rather than “running away from the world.”
In 1905, du Bois went to Paris to study with artist and illustrator Theophile Steinlin, but had to return to the U.S. following his father’s death. His year in Paris was not wasted, however. Du Bois’ work was chosen as part of a group exhibit at the Paris Salon.
Career and Family
Du Bois had to make a living back in New York, and he chose to follow in the footsteps of his father, who had been a reporter for the New York American, and published his first piece of art criticism for that same publication in 1908, the same year that many critics bashed the show of Henri and his students at the Macbeth Gallery, dubbing them the Ashcan School.
In 1911, DuBois married Florence Sherman Duncan, who had three children from a previous marriage. The couple added to the family with a daughter, Yvonne, in 1913 and a son, William in 1916. Yvonne became a fine and respected artist and Willam wrote and illustrated children’s books and helped to found the Paris Review.
From 1920 to 1924, the du Bois family lived in Westport, Connecticut. Du Bois hoped that this home would be a haven for him, where he could work on his painting. His neighbor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was du Bois’ entree into Westport’s high society and he had to retreat to his New York studio to get work done. The experience led, however, to du Bois’ paintings, as an outside observer, of social interactions.
In 1924, du Bois moved the family to France where, through careful budgeting, they were able to live for six years. It was the 1929 stock market crash that forced the family to move back to the States.
Du Bois supplemented his income by writing and teaching at the Art Students League and at an art school in Stonington, Connecticut, which he founded. Du Bois died in Boston in 1958.
Guy Pène du Bois’ works are included in the collections of the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and other fine venues. John Jay at His Home, a mural, commissioned by the WPA, is installed in the U.S. Post Office in Rye, New York.
Guy Pène du Bois ca. 1930
Guy Pène du Bois Four Arts Ball (Du Bois is the male figure dancing in the center of the painting) 1929
Guy Pène du Bois Third Avenue El 1932
Guy Pène du Bois John Jay at His Home 1938