oil on canvas
Unframed: 30 1/8 × 25 1/8 in. (76.52 × 63.82 cm)
Framed: 38 3/4 × 33 3/4 × 4 in. (98.43 × 85.73 × 10.16 cm)
 The post–Civil War realism of the Boston school captured the bourgeois counterpoint to the era’s grittier Ashcan movement. Here, an elegant woman absently tends to her glove while glancing at the letter on her desk. Light bounces off the woman’s cheek, skims the edge of her hand, and lands on the letter. This diagonal line purposefully links the subject’s face with the white envelope, inviting an edge of uncertainty into the quiet scene— what does the letter contain? The Letter recalls a popular theme in the work of Johannes Vermeer, and its composition may have been inspired by the Dutchman’s Woman with a Pearl Necklace (below). The painting was sold at auction in Paris in 1892 when Paxton was a student there attending the sales.
At upper right: Paxton - 1908
James W. and Frances Gibson McGlothlin Collection
"Paxton's Women", Dixon Gallery & Gardens, Memphis, TN, April 28 - July 14, 2019; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH, August 18 - November 10, 2019

"American Art from the McGlothlin Collection" Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (1 May - 18 July 2010).

"Capturing Beauty: American Impressionist & Realist Paintings from the McGlothlin Collection," Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (19 May-18 September, 2005).

"Wiliam McGregor Paxton, 1869-1941," Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN (August-October, 1978) no. 17; El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, TX; Josyln Museum, Omaha, NE; Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA.

"105th Annual Exhibition," Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA (January-March, 1910) no. 551.

"12th Annual Exhibition of Paintings," Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA (May-September 1909) no. 19.

"35 Paintings by 12 Boston Artists," Macbeth Galleries, New York, NY (April 1909).

"Exhibition of Paintings by William McGregor Paxton," Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI (March-April, 1909) no. 13.

"Paintings by William M. Paxton," St. Botolph Club, Boston, MA (March 1909) no. 13.

"2nd Exhibition of Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists," The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (December, 1908-January, 1909) no. 208.

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.