The detail shows guests enjoying a wedding celebration, in which the bride appears naked

Guy Pène du Bois

American, 1884–1958

Country Wedding, 1929

Oil on canvas

36¼ x 29 inches

Signed and dated lower left

Pène du Bois grew up in a well-off, intellectual family in Brooklyn: his father was a noted critic, and he was named for the French writer Guy de Maupassant, a close family friend. In 1899 Pène du Bois dropped out of high school and became the youngest student in William Merritt Chase’s New York School of Art. He later studied with Robert Henri and learned to paint from life observed in the streets. Unlike the members of the Ashcan School, Pène du Bois depicted the well-to-do at garden parties, racetracks, theaters, and nightclubs—often glamourizing them, but sometimes inferring the emptiness of privileged life.

Pène du Bois first travelled to France in 1905, but it was during the second trip from 1924–30 that he enjoyed his most productive period.Country Wedding comes from these years. The artist’s daughter explained that the scene was based on an actual wedding. She recalled her father saying, “I went to a peasant wedding … and the men peasants—all dressed in their Sunday clothes, hair still wet, and plastered down on their heads—all looked at the bride as though they were undressing her.” The resulting painting is a satire on the institution of marriage and a wonderful example of the artist’s ability to capture the essence of an event that is not always what it seems.

The detail shows guests enjoying a wedding celebration, in which the bride appears naked