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Untitled (Woman Disrobing)

Philip Hanson



23 7/8" x 19"

In the 1970s, Philip Hanson completed a series of paintings that featured women shrouded in surreal, diaphanous garments. Either sitting in front of a mirrored vanity or standing in an abstract setting, the subject’s back is turned, thus revealing little about her identity. In each painting, the dress she wears is transparent, hinting at the rosy, soft skin below its many ruffles and folds.

In Untitled, the dress is reminiscent of a body of water; the crests and troughs of waves fall over her against a background of patchy, oceanic layers of blue paint. The materiality of the dress is established with a bright flourish of pink ribbon. The woman lifts the silky layers of clothing over her head to reveal her smooth, neatly molded posterior; the act recalls the removal of shiny cellophane from a newly minted product.

The intimate scene presented in Untitled is erotic yet foreboding and voyeuristic. Like fellow False Image artist Roger Brown, Hanson often incorporated the stage into his work; the curved, velvety valences, high arches, and dark scenery of this painting suggest the backstage of a theater. The actress removes her costume at the end of another performance, and with its removal, reveals her humanity. The illusion of the story—a microcosm of the world presented on the stage—is broken.


The Bill McClain Collection of Chicago Imagism
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art