Daily Art Moment: Beth Van Hoesen

A vertical rectangular print in black on cream depicting two figures in a bar setting having cocktails. At right, a female figure is seen in three quarter view, looking at the viewer holding up a stemmed glass in her hand while her arm rests on her elbow. Her pale hair is swept back from her narrow face and up into a bun. She has thin highly arched eyebrows and a small, dark mouth. She wears a short-sleeved top showing thin arms with bracelets on the wrist. Her hand and fingers are also long and thin. Her companion sits to the right and faces the viewer. He has a round broad face with sparse hair on top. He looks out from hooded eyes and has a cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth. He wears a dark suit on his broad body and rest one arm along the bar. A long necked bottled is seen at lower left. Behind the couple is the suggestion of hanging lights. The print has the appearance of a sketch with line drawing, shading and cross hatching.

Beth Van Hoesen’s cocktail drinkers, though created in 1946, seem to show the same world-weariness that has gripped many of us throughout the tumultuous year. They are prepared, I imagine, to toast out the year, but they aren’t going to pretend it was fun! The woman’s raised eyebrow suggests her skepticism about the state of affairs, while the man’s slumped posture indicates resignation. They appear firmly ensconced at the table, perhaps a clue that they have been sitting there for quite some time.

Despite their dour expressions, this lithograph makes me laugh every time I see it. I love the power of art to connect us across the decades. Join them in raising a glass to usher out 2020. Here’s to a happier and healthier 2021!

Mary Weaver Chapin, Curator of Prints and Drawings

Beth Van Hoesen (American, 1926-2010), Cocktail Hour, 1946, lithograph on cream wove paper, image: 12 1/2 in x 9 3/8 in; sheet: 19 1/8 in x 12 5/8 in, Gift of the E. Mark Adams and Beth Van Hoesen Adams Trust. Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, 2007.60.13

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