A 19" x 25" portrait by Plath of her high school classmate and friend Arden Tapley, executed in pastels. Undated, but probably from 1950, the year both of them graduated from Wellesley High School. Arden is wearing her hair in the same style as her graduation photograph and may be wearing the same shirt. Plath's mastery of the craft of portraiture is limited: her anatomy is far from perfect, but her intent to capture the essence of her subject is boldly realized not only in the outer depiction of her hairstyle and nondescript clothing, but more importantly in the intensity of the gaze captured by the artist. The portrait would be remarkable if it contained only her eyes, which look askance with a combination of intensity and vulnerability that seems to perfectly embody the artist herself, perhaps as much as her friend. Arden Tapley's daughter recalled that her mother often spoke of her high school friendship with Sylvia, and that both were rather "shy, sensitive girls who naturally gravitated toward each other." She said that when she first saw the image she immediately recognized it as her mother, and in that sense Plath did capture an essence of her young friend. We have never seen such an artwork by Plath offered on the market; her sketch of Ted Hughes that was done seven years later and sold for $49,000 was a considerably less "finished" work, albeit one that showed a more mature command of style and representation. All of Plath's significant works have long been institutionalized. Once creased near the lower edge, apparently to display the image without showing the hands; small red stamp lower left corner; else fine. Matted and framed to 23-1/4" x 30". A powerful image of a close friend by the noted writer while she was still a high school student. Provenance: the estate of James Sibley Watson, Jr. No Binding. Near Fine.
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