In contemplation: The end of the story

 

While many of us are confined at home for the moment, dutifully working remotely, there are times in the day when simply lazying around is a must, sprawled across the couch with a good book, missing going out. Australian artist Emanuel Phillips Fox’s (1865-1915) The end of the story c.1911-12 depicts a woman in contemplation, reclining upon a chaise lounge, with her fingers marking a page in a closed book — in essence, confined within the domestic realm just like us.

As in the case of most Fox’s paintings of women, she is depicted within an interior setting as an idealised version of femininity. Fox was not alone among his contemporaries in depicting women in this way, in fact, many of the paintings being exhibited in Paris during this period featured similar subjects and treatment.

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E. Phillips Fox, Australia/France 1865-1915 / The end of the story c.1911-12 / Oil on canvas / 73.5 x 100.4cm / Purchased 1949 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Previously in 1905 Fox had married English artist Ethel Carrick and the couple settled in Paris the same year. Throughout his years in Paris Fox made a series of painting trips to greater France, Italy, Australia, and Spain before both settled in Australia in 1913.

It has been suggested that Fox’s model for The end of the story was Edith Anderson, an artist and associate of Fox’s. Anderson was also in Paris during this time, and might also have posed for Bathing hour (L’Heure de Bain) c.1909.

E. Phillips Fox, Australia/France 1865-1915 / The letter c.1908-10 / Oil on canvas laid down on composition board / 76.5 x 50.7cm; 87.2 x 61.3cm (framed) / Purchased 1955 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Fox sometimes painted several versions of the same painting, as in the case of Bathing hour. He also painted two versions of The letter, one in 1908 and a second in c.1908-10, the latter version profiled here. Although the two paintings are nearly identical in subject and pose, this work is more painterly and impressionistic than the earlier version. The Letter, like The end of the story depicts the female figure within the traditional domestic interior, engaged in the contemplative act of reading.

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Emanuel Phillips Fox presents the beach as a place of pure enjoyment in which one can experience the delights of water and sunlight, of lovely clothes, of the joys of childhood. It is easy to see why Bathing hour (L’heure du bain) c.1909 is one of the most popular paintings in the Gallery’s Australian Art Collection.

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E. Phillips Fox, Australia/France 1865-1915 / Bathing hour (L’heure du bain) c.1909 / Oil on canvas / 183.5 x 113.3cm / Purchased 1946 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

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Feature image detail: E. Phillips Fox The end of the story c.1911-12

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