Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fun Facts: Maxfield Parrish's "Daybreak"

This young woman, in Parrish's "Morning"

was also the model for the reclining girl in 1922's "Daybreak"

Her name was Kitty Owen.
And her grandfather was William Jennings Bryan.

Her mother - Bryan's daughter Ruth Bryan Owen - was a prominent feminist, and was later elected to Congress in 1928, and has a fascinating biography herself. Ruth Bryan Owen was the mother of four (two with the first husband, two with Maj. Owen), but if "Kitty" Owen is also known as "Helen Rudd Brown" (noted as "daughter of Ruth Bryan Owen"), then she ran for Congress herself, in 1958 and 1960 (and lost).

According to
Helen Rudd Brown - either the girl in "Daybreak", or, more likely, her half-sister - was still living in 2003.

(This family gets more interesting the deeper one looks:

WJ Bryan's wife was a lawyer herself.
Not only was RB Owen the first woman Representative from the deep South, but FDR appointed her as America's first woman Ambassador. Ruth Bryan apparently dropped out of college in 1903 to marry and raise a family; was divorced in 1909, and only married Major Reginald Owen (a Brit, no less) in 1910 - so either the girl in the picture was about 11 years old, or she took her stepfather's name.)

Here's a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt and RB Owen:

Anyway, let's take a moment to reflect upon Parrish's masterpiece, "Daybreak":

This was considered to be fine art in 1922, and it was the most popular art print of the 20th century (the figure "one for every four American homes" is commonly cited) - but let's note that over eighty-five years later, in today's climate of panic, it counts as kiddie-pr0n: the naked girl is Parrish's daughter Jean, who was all of eleven years old. Parrish couldn't have sold this to the American public in the 21st century; he'd be lucky to talk his way out of jail just for having painted it.

Times change.

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At 3:04 PM, Blogger evercurious said...

Helen Rudd Owen was 20 yrs old in 1940, so it's obviously not her. There was a child born in 1913 to Ruth Bryan Owen but I've been unable to get any details. If this is the Ruth "Kitty" Owen purported to be the reclining model in "Daybreak" - she's all of 9 years old. It was a more innocent time then ...

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Death Ray said...

Oh, bosh on your paranoia; the idea that people can't tell what is beautiful from what is revolting. This print is sold everywhere!


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