chicago-reader: We teamed up with the Sun-Times to help out…


We teamed up with the Sun-Times to help out with your weekend Agenda. We’re thinking art and apple picking.

So, I’ve started reading Patricia O’Reilly’s fictionalized biography of Kathleen Newton, A Type of Beauty. Stylistically it’s a bit flowery for my taste, but I’ve only just started. Maybe it will grow on me.

I kind of love the wide gulf between O’Reilly’s version of Newton’s early life, and in particular of her “fall”, and the version offered in this video, which talks about Newton while discussing the Tissot exhibit currently at the Art Institute of Chicago. The video’s version of Newton’s life is more salacious, which is probably unsurprising; it makes a better story, after all.

O’Reilly was the person responsible for much of Newton’s Wikipedia article. That article arguably crosses the line into what Wikipedia editors would disparagingly refer to as “original research”, but as a dyed-in-the-wool inclusionist I have a hard time faulting O’Reilly for that.

When I look at Tissot’s portraits of Newton, I’m necessarily looking through the eyes of love. It’s hard not to feel sympathetic, given the events of Newton’s life, however they might be spun. And the spin matters. In her calm, unapologetic gaze there’s a response to the Victorian slut-shaming she endured, and a challenge: To consider her not as a symbol, not as a morality tale, but as a person, one who made her way the best she could, given the forces beyond her control that shaped her life.

I liked this article about Newton from the Chicago Reader: James Tissot’s tragic muse.

Reposted from

Tags: james tissot, kathleen newton, patricia o'reilly, a type of beauty, fate.

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