Walt Kuhn, Plumes
This 1931 painting shows a performer in an elaborate headdress with heavily lined eyes and bright red lips. She is clearly between about to go onstage and looks extremely glum at the prospect. She is tired and, like the woman from Marsh’s Down at Jimmy Kelly’s, may have been forced by her dismal financial circumstances to go into a tiring and difficult profession. Instead of painting this performer onstage in all her glory, Kuhn shows her exhaustion and desperation. An audience member may have been swept away by the glory of show business, but a look at this painting shows the ugly truth. Her showy getup is a sharp contrast to her depression.