Not on view
Oil on linen
Overall: 57 5/8 × 45 1/8in. (146.4 × 114.6 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase
Rights and reproductions
Courtesy of James Graham & Sons and the Estate of Guy Pene du Bois
Guy Pène du Bois was a satirist of New York and Parisian society in the tradition of the French nineteenth-century cartoonist and painter Honoré Daumier. One of his favorite settings was the opera, which he attended as a music critic for the New York American and as the guest of the Whitney Museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. From his seat in the house, Pène du Bois studied the rich and the powerful; he then returned to his studio to paint what he had observed. Opera Box is a subtle satire—a trenchant commentary on the drama that unfolds offstage, in the theater’s audience. It portrays a refined, statuesque woman looking down from an upper tier of the house; her expression is distant, self-absorbed, and impenetrable. The sole occupant of an opera box is lit as if on stage, and set against a dark, velvety backdrop. Although her regal demeanor masks any individual personality, it suggests that the woman knows—or hopes—that she is being watched.