Video (10:02): Stettheimer expert and art historian Barbara Bloemink provides a full exploration of the imagery and context of Florine Stettheimer’s highly important 1920 painting ASBURY PARK SOUTH. Asbury Park South is a highly significant painting as it is one of the earliest paintings in the 20th century of middle-class African-Americans shown in their own context by a Caucasian American artist.
The Stettheimer’s Salon
The Stettheimers (Florine and her two sisters) held a salons for the literati, professional artists and creatives in New York from 1915 – ca. 1935. It included a remarkable mixture of gay, lesbian, and bisexual members, whom Florine Stettheimer included in virtually all her compositions, beginning as early as 1920 and continuing until the end of her career.
Florine Stettheimer (1871 – 1944)
Florine Stettheimer emphasized women over men in her extraordinary painting of African-Americans, Asbury Park South. She became interested in the Harlem Renaissance through Van Vechten, a closeted gay photographer, who was a major patron of African-American culture and a member of the Stettheimers salon. The issue of whether the artist was or was not a lesbian often came up when her name was mentioned. It is a fact that she was a feminist who believed that marriage would hamper a woman’s posibilities as a professional artist, so she never married. In her painings she portrays unique subjects, including race, sexual orientation, gender, and religion.
Barbara Bloemink writes, ‘Stettheimer was acutely aware of the subversive feminism of her “feminine” point of view. In 1915 she completed, Self-Portrait, the first known example of a woman painting herself entirely nude. (…) Stettheimer was already forty-five years old when she completed Self-Portrait, an age when women were (and still are) considered well past their prime of youthful beauty. (…) The idea that a woman, particularly a wealthy, unmarried, middle-aged one, would paint herself nude was unthinkable. Stettheimer never publicly exhibited Self-Portrait.’
Florine Stettheimer: Feminist Provocateur by Barbara Bloemink