The Dressing Table

Girl in Mirror

John Wilson (American, 1922–2015)

Catalogue Raisonné



Height x width: 28 x 15 1/2 in. (71.1 x 39.4 cm)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on paperboard

Not On View





John Wilson is best known today as a sculptor, particularly for his monumental work, Eternal Presence, which anchors the exterior of Boston’s National Center of Afro-American Artists. In addition to his three-dimensional works, Wilson has been active as a painter and draftsman throughout his career. Educated at Roxbury Memorial High School, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (graduating with highest honors), and at Tufts University, Wilson began his career teaching painting at the Boris Mirski School of Modern Art in Boston. He spent several years in Paris in the late 1940s, studying with the French painter Fernand Léger, and he traveled to Mexico in the 1950s, at that time devoting himself to large scale public murals. Wilson worked in Chicago and New York before accepting a position at Boston University’s School for the Arts in 1964, where he taught from 1965 until 1984. Wilson, who continues to draw, sculpt, and exhibit, had an exhibition at the MFA in 1995.

“The Dressing Table” was painted the year Wilson graduated from the SMFA. It was first exhibited at the prestigious annual exhibition of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1945. The sitter is Wilson’s sister, who poses clothed for a summer party, flowers surrounding her in the printed fabric of her gown, on the wallpaper, and in her hair. Wilson added texture to the surface of his picture by scratching into the liquid pigment with the end of his brush, creating animated details in the woman’s hair, her necklace, and her dress. The model appears as a modern Venus, her features revealed to the viewer only in the mirror’s reflection. The solemnity of her expression and the solidity of her form are characteristic of Wilson’s dignified approach to the human figure.


Signed center right: John Wilson


Collection of the artist; Mr. Barnet Wein, Boston, MA - purchased directly from the artist; Collection of George and Joyce Wein, New York, NY - acquired through inheritance (George Wein's father was Barnet Wein); Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds by exchange from the Annie Anderson Hough Fund, Gift of Miss Mary Thacher, The John Pickering Lyman Collection—Gift of Miss Theodora Lyman, Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund, Bequest of Miss Ellen Starkey Bates, and Museum purchase with funds donated by Mrs. Charles Gaston Smith's Group and by purchase


© John Wilson/Licensed by VAGA, New York , NY