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Place Carriere, Nancy
Oil on canvas
18 1/4 x 22 inches
Walter Gay, born in Hingham, Massachusetts, began his formal training as a painter in Boston in 1875. At the suggestion of an early mentor, William Morris Hunt, Gay moved to Paris a year later, where he would remain for the rest of his life. He studied in the atelier of Léon Bonnat, and he and his wife became integral members of the expatriate community in Paris, which included James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Edith Wharton, and Henry James. When the artist died in 1937, he was dubbed the “Dean of American Painters in France” in his New York Times obituary.
His most important and successful subjects were his homes—elegantly appointed apartments in Paris (on the rue Ampere and the rue de l’Université) and country estates (Magnanville, Fortoiseau, and, most well known of all, the Chateau Breau which he and his wife Matilda purchased in 1907). By the late 1880s, liberated by his wife’s affluence, Gay shifted his focus from the light hyper-reality of his early genre scenes and turned his attention instead to the rooms of his apartments in Paris and his country homes. The estates held room after room of still lifes, tableaux he and his wife Matilda created from the objects that were the binding elements of their life together.