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Kiss Me and You'll Kiss the 'Lasses

Lilly Martin Spencer

American Art

On View: American Identities: A New Look, American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, Visions and Myths of a Nation, 1800–1890, 5th Floor
Standing amidst a bountiful harvest of fruits in a well-appointed bourgeois interior, the woman pictured here turns from her work to engage an unseen interloper (placed in the position of the viewer) in a playful flirtation. As the title implies, if the interloper tries to kiss her, he will receive a dousing of molasses from the spoon in her hand. Lilly Martin Spencer won popular acclaim in the mid-nineteenth century with anecdotal kitchen scenes such as this one, commissioned by the Cosmopolitan Art Association. Devoted to the encouragement of American genre art, the association also promoted art by women for women. It remains uncertain, however, what kind of appeal Kiss Me … had for female audiences: on the one hand, Spencer's protagonist occupies the domestic sphere of proper Victorian womanhood, yet, on the other hand, she behaves with unconventional boldness and autonomy. Interestingly, the artist experienced similar contradictions in her own life: raised in a progressive family, Spencer supported her husband and large brood with art depicting women in traditional roles.

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MEDIUM Oil on canvas
DATES 1856
DIMENSIONS 29 15/16 x 24 15/16 in. (76 x 63.3 cm) frame: 43 3/4 x 38 3/4 x 4 in. (111.1 x 98.4 x 10.2 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE Signed lower right :"Lilly M. Spencer / 1856"
CREDIT LINE A. Augustus Healy Fund
RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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CAPTION Lilly Martin Spencer (American, born England, 1822-1902). Kiss Me and You'll Kiss the 'Lasses, 1856. Oil on canvas, 29 15/16 x 24 15/16 in. (76 x 63.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund, 70.26
IMAGE overall, 70.26_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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