La Petite Poupée, 1920
signed lower left
signed and titled to verso
Loch Gallery, Calgary;
Born in Fordwich, Ontario, in 1876, Frank Armington, like so many early Canadian artists, left Canada in 1899 to move to Paris to continue his art studies. French culture, influences, and art buying citizens would prove critical to Armington’s career, which was divided between Canada and France, twice interrupted by war. He had met Brampton-born Caroline Wilkinson in J.L Forster’s art class in Toronto. She would follow him to Paris where they were married in 1900, returning to Canada shortly afterward. They would work together as painters, etchers, and engravers, enjoying critical and financial success, until Caroline’s death.
In France in 1905, Frank Armington studied with a number of prominent French artists, and was also able to work with Benjamin Constant at the Academie Julian. He had a work accepted at the Salon d’Automne in Paris that year, an exceptional accomplishment as a non-resident. He and Caroline had returned to Canada after the outbreak of WWI, and at its end, were eager to revisit Paris. The 1920s saw him interested in the ballet, and he painted a portrait of the noted Belgian ballerina Yetta- Rianza entitled La Danseuse ~ Yetta-Rianza. This work was shown in the exhibition Paris moderne, and was purchased for the Musée Nationale du Luxembourg from this show. This success buoyed his interest in the subject and he created a number of fine paintings of ballerinas practicing, resting, or posed for their portrait.
La Petite Poupée, or The Little Doll, shows us a ballerina in a graceful pose, feet in the third position, arranging a small doll – one that is also a ballerina – on a dresser. We see the ballerina’s reflected face in the mirror, and the reflected back of the doll, whose legs she is posing. It is a skillfully arranged vignette, they are in opposite positions to one another, as well as reflected opposite positions to one another in the mirror. Over the ballerina’s left shoulder, we see a painting of a dancer, an additional reinforcement of the theme. A curtain at the left adds a final touch, creating a fully dance themed setting for this sensitively handled work.