Albert Herter’s 1894 Woman with Red Hair has virtually no narrative content. Certainly she is unusually dressed, and surrounded by flowers, both real and representational, Herter doesn’t attempt to convey any sort of personal history or significance to her. Any elements that connect to history on a grander scale—a gilt background reminiscent of medieval tapestry, garments and pose evocative of the Renaissance—Herter nonetheless treats as purely decorative elements of the composition.
But then, that shouldn’t be surprising—after all, Herter was an Aesthetic Painter.
And, as Christie’s quotes E.M. Foshay as pointing out, “Herter produced furniture and tapestries in addition to paintings, and the flat, abstract style of his painting may reflect his affinity for two-dimensional decoration.”