© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Rebecca Salsbury Strand James, American (1891 - 1968)
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Physical Descriptions
Oil on glass
24.8 x 19.7 cm (9 3/4 x 7 3/4 in.)
framed: 27.4 x 22.5 x 1.4 cm (10 13/16 x 8 7/8 x 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: Inscribed upper left in pencil: 27-RSS-1. Inscribed upper left in pencil: SOR #2361. Inscribed upper center in ink: Paul / Taos 1934 / Rebecca Salsbury James. (Inscriptions listed above area on brown backing paper on verso of work.)
Private Collector, Colorado. [Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico]; sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1995.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Isabella Grandin Bequest Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 1300 Early Modernism , written 2014
Allied with Alfred Stieglitz and his circle, Paul Strand and Rebecca Salsbury James worked within a nexus of transatlantic social and cultural exchanges. Strand’s “straight” photography aesthetic, including radical viewpoints and abstracted forms, is demonstrated in this close-up portrait of James from the year they married. Likely inspired in part by Stieglitz’s portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe, the more than one hundred photographs Strand made of James between 1920 and 1932 reflect an intimacy and passion that counter the radical objectivity often associated with his work.
James’s adoption of the reverse oil-on-glass painting technique reflects the importance of vernacular artistic traditions for European and American modernists seeking alternatives to the dominant urban avant-garde. James created this “object portrait”—in which inanimate objects evoke a human personality—shortly after she and Strand divorced. The 8 x 10-inch glass plate, the contrasting geometric forms, including a black circle reminiscent of a camera lens, and the abstracted, minimalist composition of Paul may refer to Strand’s chosen medium while also referencing James’s modernist vocabulary.

Exhibition History

The Persistence of Memory: Continuity and Change in American Cultures, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/29/1995 - 05/13/2001

32Q: 1300 Early Modernism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 04/29/2015

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu