Ramsey, Charles F., (1875-1951), The Modern Woman, 1934, oil on canvas, H. 40 x W. 30 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest with Assistance from First Union Bank.

A painting that has recently caught my attention is Charles F. Ramsey’s, The Modern Woman, currently on display in the exhibit, The Brush is Mightier than the Sword: Twentieth Century Works from the Michener Art Museum Collection.

This abstract yet extremely intricate image depicts a female form in the center of the painting, created by the combination of various shapes in a range of different colors.  What do you notice about this woman? Where do you think she is standing?

This painting caught my attention for several reasons.  The first thing I noticed as I looked closer was how much it resembled the cubist style of Pablo Picasso. Upon researching Ramsey, I learned that this French born artist moved to the U.S. to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and eventually spearheaded the movement towards abstraction in the New Hope region, founding the New Group in 1930.


The second thing that captured me about this painting was how Ramsey depicted this woman, who clearly consists of many varying parts. By dividing up the image in this way, what is he saying about this woman? How is he portraying her?

Ramsey did not create a simple, beautiful, one-dimensional figure in this work. He saw this woman differently. In this composition, one can see that this woman is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional.  By the woman’s placement in the composition and her size, it also gives the impression of her importance.

The title of this work is called The Modern Woman. What do the words “modern woman” mean to you?  Why do you think he chose this title?

Please share your thoughts with us!

-Sumreen Z Chaudhry, Michener Intern