Girl With Cigarette by Agnes Goodsir - 1925 - 100 x 81cm private collection Girl With Cigarette by Agnes Goodsir - 1925 - 100 x 81cm private collection

Girl With Cigarette

oil on canvas • 100 x 81cm
  • Agnes Goodsir - 18 June 1864 - 11 August 1939 Agnes Goodsir 1925

A really good portrait tells you as much about the artist as it does about the subject. In Girl With Cigarette, 1925, painter Agnes Goodsir (1864-1939) gives us a glimpse into her artistic life.

The portrait shows her lover, Rachel Dunn (aka Cherry), sitting at a table with elegant hands holding a cigarette while staring with icy blue eyes at the viewer. Goodsir captures so much detail in her paintings from the beautiful, intricate fabric of the shawl she wears to the delicate china teacup and saucer. The fan, table lamp, and ashtray become intimate objects that help create a domestic scene as she sits relaxing with a cup of tea, a smoke, and a fan to maybe cool off with later.

Ladies were not often painted or photographed smoking at this time but it became very popular in the roaring 20s when women became emboldened to break barriers and try new things. Tobacco companies, like Lucky Strike, began tempting women with slogans like “Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet.”

Rachel Dunn and her husband Bernard Roelvink were close friends of Agnes Goodsir; they were all wealthy Australians in high society who traveled in the same circles so it was quite scandalous at the time when Rachel divorced her husband to be with Goodsir. They settled in Paris and Rachel became a frequent model for many of Goodsir’s portraits. They lived a bohemian lifestyle and enjoyed the freedom and creativity that Paris afforded them.

Sadly, after Goodsir’s death in Paris in 1939, her works were largely forgotten but perhaps it’s time to take another look.

- Heidi Werber

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