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collections > permanent collection > prints > MABEL DWIGHT
 

Mabel Dwight
(American, 1876 - 1955)
Houston Street Burlesque, 1928
Lithograph, 16 1/4" x 10 1/2"

R.K. Mellon Family Foundation Art Acquisition Endowment Fund (90.005)

Mabel Dwight was a leading figure in American Scene printmaking.  Primarily known as a lithographer, she brought a sense of witty good humor to her subjects.  In Houston Street Burlesque, a smiling “hootchie-cootchie” dancer entertains an audience composed mainly of balding, overweight men.  Displaying satyr-like grins, they stare transfixed, apparently mesmerized by the young woman’s sinuous form.  For Dwight, the audience is as much the subject as the dancer, and their jocular silliness (as well as the dancer’s complicity in it) happily undermines the exploitative nature of burlesque.

Dwight was born in Cincinnati and grew up in New Orleans and San Francisco; by 1903, she had settled in New York City.  Although she had taken art courses, she did not pursue a professional career until 1918; recently divorced from artist Eugene Higgins, she became secretary of the Whitney Studio Club and began sending work to their exhibitions.  Initially she worked as a painter, but while on a trip to Paris in 1927, she learned how to make lithographs.  Reinventing herself as a printmaker, Dwight found many admirers among the collectors who fueled the print collecting boom of the 1930s.  Her work is still highly esteemed today, and may be found in many public and private collections.