Berber Bride: a portrait by Louis McClellan Potter

From his extensive travels in Europe, North-Africa and the United States, we can deduct that Louis McClellan Potter (1873-1912) had a curious mind.  Time spent with Berbers and Bedouins, as well as with Native-American tribes such as the Tlingit; the fact that he is said to have died from the consequences of a Chinese medicine skin treatment; his interest in occult practices; all these elements point to a man who was seeking spiritual connections with a beyond.

In Tunisia Potter seems to have drawn of great many portraits, mostly in watercolor.  These seem to have mostly vanished.  He later reworked some of these compositions into color aquatints, a technique he had most certainly learned, or at the very least perfected, while living in Paris for about 4 years.

While in Paris Potter became friends with Bernard Boutet de Monvel (1881-1949).  The two artists, who both seem to have had a propensity towards dandyism, met in the studio of Luc-Olivier Merson’s studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  Potter, who was already versed in color printmaking, showed the ropes to young Bernard, who took to it with gusto and made some amazing color aquatints from circa 1897 to 1914.  Boutet de Monvel etched a portrait of his friend Potter in 1900, likely at some time between Potter’s visit to Tunisia and his return to the States.

Our portrait depicts a young woman, most likely from the Berber tribe, which was and still inhabits Tunisia.  The facial tattoos indicate this tribal identity.  In most Islamic traditions tattoos were not accepted.  The woman seriously looks ahead, unperturbed by the artist painting her, and confident on such a memorable day in the life of a woman.

Details about this work can be found HERE.

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