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American Paintings - 1980-present

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Mrs. Jenkins' Late Night Dinner in Her Room, Alone (While, Out in the Hall Leading to Her Room, Her Small Friends were Sleeping)

1984
20th century
127 cm x 182.9 cm (50 in. x 72 in.)

Donald Roller Wilson (Houston, TX, 1938 - ) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase through the generosity of the 1985 Friends of the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery
Accession Number: 1985.33

The title of Mrs. Jenkins’ Late Night Dinner in Her Room, Alone (While, Out in the Hall Leading to Her Room, Her Small Friends Were Sleeping) and a poem that accompanies it tell part of a sprawling story while the haunting and realistic large-scale canvas tells another. With words and images, Donald Roller Wilson weaves a Southern Gothic of sorts. In the painting we do not see Mrs. Jenkins, who is invoked in the poem, or the surreal cast of characters that recur in many of Wilson’s canvases, often animals dressed in vintage clothing. Employing the painting techniques of seventeenth-century Dutch masters such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Wilson paints from life, filling his studio with scouted artifacts. He attends to every detail with photographic precision and the finest of touches: here, the wrinkles and folds of the fabric covering the chairs, the halos of stains coming through the paint on the walls, and the evocative play of light and shadow dancing across the room.
Mrs. Jenkins’ late night dinner in her room, alone (While, out in the hall leading to her room, her small friends were sleeping) Mrs. Jenkins set her table Made it look like two Had dined together in her room last night And in the morning—through her keyhole Most who peeked inside Had seen the plates but none had seen the light And very few who saw caught on For most were fooled—it seemed And those who knew had tried to be polite They knew that though she played her tricks Down deep, she was inside And, in the end, that she would be allright Donald Roller Wilson, 6:32 p.m., Saturday evening, July 14

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