A Sketch is one of a series of sculptures modeled in 1902 by American artist Bessie Potter Vonnoh which sensitively captured an intimate moment between a mother and her children. In 1902 Vonnoh also modeled two of her most famous works of similar subject matter, Enthroned and Mother and Child, both of which depict Helena Walter, a neighbor of the Vonnohs in Rockland Lake, New York.
Unlike previous depictions of mothers by Vonnoh, A Sketch is notable for the informality of the scene, which captures a young mother as she scoops up her squirming baby, perching him on her hip.
Vonnoh exhibited A Sketch frequently throughout the early 20th century. The first known showing was at The Society of American Artists in 1904, where American painter Robert Henri was particularly enamored with the piece and recommended it for an award, though the committee selected the group sculpture Enthroned as the winner. A Sketch was then exhibited at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1905, followed by a 1909 exhibition of Vonnoh's work at the Brooklyn Museum. The Brooklyn Museum acquired a group of Vonnoh's work in 1913, including A Sketch. The piece was again exhibited from December 1914-January 1915 at the Art Institute of Chicago; it is pictured in a period photograph of the exhibition.
In 1955, after Vonnoh’s death, an example of A Sketch from her personal collection was donated to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. That example is now part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art (accession no. 2015.19.3744).
This piece was cast by the Roman Bronze Works foundry in New York, with whom Vonnoh had a long working relationship.
Height: 10 inches (25.4 cm)
Julie Aronson, Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women (Cincinatti, Ohio: Cincinnati Art Museum, 2008), 121-126.