American painter and pastellist Alice Pike Barney was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — a time when outspoken, involved, skilled and independent-minded women like herself were the model for what was seen by proponents of early feminism as the “New Woman”.
Based in Washington, DC, she travelled to Paris, where her two daughters were attending school, and studied with Sargent’s teacher Carolus-Duran, as well as with James Whistler, during the brief time he operated a school.
Barney was adept in both oil and pastel, in the latter medium often taking a free approach, with vibrant colors and loose, gestural handling. Her interest in theater shows in her portraits cast in theatrical roles and costume.
She painted numerous portraits of her daughters at various points in their lives, as well as a number of self-portraits (above, bottom). Her subjects inclided such noted figures as Whistler and George Bernard Shaw.
A patron as well as an artist, Barney was active in working to make Washington, D.C. a notable city for the arts, helping to move it out of the shadow of New York, Philadelphia and Boston.