The amateur 1914


Description of the picture: see below.

JQAW# G_1914_010
Oil on canvas min. 200 x 200 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams 1914
Portrait lost.
B/W reproduction: Die Kunst 29, 1913, S.240

A man sits in an armchair covered with brocade fabric, richly carved on the legs, holding in his hand a black sculpture of a woman on a pedestal, whose figure he compares to that of a nude model standing by a marble mantelpiece in a standing leg-playing leg pose. The model has her left hand pressed to her hip, her right hand is propped up on the mantelpiece with her elbow, her forearm raised, her gaze directed at the man. The man wears a black suit and tie; his legs are crossed, gray spats are visible on his shoes. His hair is short with a strongly drawn parting. Next to the armchair leans a large portfolio. On the wall a small table, on which a drawing leaning against the wall is visible. On the floor a Persian carpet, on the wall a landscape tapestry on which a tree is visible. On the mantelpiece is a large glass bowl reminiscent of an aquarium.

This ironic painting could also be called "The Visit to the Studio," as it obviously illustrates the widespread practice of husbands attending portrait sessions of their wives in the studio out of curiosity or jealousy (or both). The marble fireplace on the left of the picture identifies the scene as Adams' studio in Vienna’s Theresianumgasse. The amateur interested in art compares a small female sculpture with a nude model, which probably serves as a model for a nude painting in the process of being created. Such a comparison, however, is almost meaningless due to the completely different posture and also the different size of the sculpture and model respectively and probably only serves to hide the lustful peek at the nude model behind alleged art interest. Adams has packaged this ironic criticism in a composition that is unusual for him: the picture is full of decorative objects (in contrast to his other works, where the backgrounds are rather sparse) and characterized by a series of strong contrasts: Nudity of the model - formal suit of the viewer; brightness of the model - blackness of the sculpture; light colors of the fireplace - dark colors of the armchair - a contrast that is also repeated in the carpet motif. Although a static snapshot, the painting nevertheless acquires a lively dynamism through the carefully composed rendering along a diagonal pictorial axis (model-statue-viewer). Since the painting was intended for public exhibition, the sitters are almost certainly fictitious and do not correspond to real people. The model, too, is more reminiscent of a cool antique sculpture than of a flesh-and-blood woman.

The painting has been lost since its exhibition at the Vienna Künstlerhaus in 1914 (39th Annual Exhibition #24). The title of the painting "The Amateur" can also be seen in the Künstlerhaus context. Formal membership in the Künstlerhaus was reserved for artists who made a full-time living from their art, which applied to both male and female artists (such as Tina Blau), but this arrangement meant also that female artists were severely underrepresented as members of the Künstlerhaus. Amateurs, on the other hand, were able to interact with Künstlerhaus artists as members of the Watercolorists' Club. Adams was both a formal member of the Künstlerhaus (since 1902) and also a member of the Watercolorists' Club. The painting is documented by two photographs of the exhibition room at the Künstlerhaus and of Adams' studio (see cross-references), as well as by an illustration in the journal Die Kunst (vol.29 from 1913, p.420). According to the entry book of the Künstlerhaus (EL 59 1914/15 #1726), the painting was valued at the exorbitantly high trust price of 20,000 crowns at the exhibition in 1914, but remained unsold (probably because of the extremely high price in Klimt dimensions) and was returned to Adams on 25 June 1914. Since then, there is no trace of the painting but it must have entered a private collection at a later date, as it is not documented in the artist’s estate.


1914 Künstlerhaus Wien (EL 59 1914/15 #1726).


APH, catalog raisonné JQA 1995, p. 119, cat.#87, fig.#61, there called The Comparison (the amateur).


Portrait lost.
B/W reproduction: Die Kunst 29, 1913, S.240.