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VeriArtem.comNewsThe wry eye of Peggy Bacon on display at the Portland Museum...

The wry eye of Peggy Bacon on display at the Portland Museum of Art

On view at the Portland Museum of Art June 14, 2024, through February 2, 2025, “Biting, never Bitter” represents a timely and noteworthy solo presentation of Peggy Bacon’s wry observations of her social, professional, and artistic networks during the 1920s and 1930s.

Source: Portland Museum of Art · Image: Peggy Bacon (United States, 1895-1987), “Auction Notice”, 1931, ink on wove paper, 7 1/2 x 8 3/4 inches. Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Museum purchase with support from May-Leigh Call Smart, 1981.1089

Featuring more than 60 prints, drawings, paintings, and pastels, “Peggy Bacon: Biting, never Bitter” is a testament to her enduring influence on the artistic landscapes in Maine, New York, and beyond.

Born in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 1895, Peggy Bacon (1895–1987) began her formal art education in 1913 at the School of Applied Arts for Women in New York, and later at the Art Students League of New York until 1920, receiving instruction from Kenneth Hayes Miller and prominent Ashcan School artists John Sloan and George Bellows. Bacon built upon the Ashcan School’s portrayals of the grit and reality of everyday life, bringing her own sharp humor and distinctively modern style to subjects in print, paint, and word. 

Biting, never Bitter” is particularly focused on Bacon’s time as a student at the Art Students League of New York, with the intention of highlighting this formative period in her career when the artist first discovered drypoint printmaking—a favorite technique throughout her lifetime and the medium for which she is best known today. Indeed, most of Bacon’s early work provides important insights into the social culture of the League at that time, drawn from her own experiences. Many of these documentary prints, often bearing a hint of humor, foreshadow what would become a widely recognized aspect of her artistic career: caricature and cartoon. The artist’s first caricatures appeared in the student-produced magazine Bad News, published by Bacon and her peers at the Art Students League in 1918; an original copy of this lively, satirical volume will be featured in the exhibition, along with a variety of replicas for visitors to peruse.

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