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Fine Art, Watercolor, Elegant Couple, May Wilson Preston, 1931


May Wilson Preston (1873-1949)
[Elegant Couple after a Party]
American: 1931
Watercolor, charcoal and pencil on card
Signed May Wilson Preston and dated ’31
17 x 16.75 inches, overall
17.75 x 17.5 inches framed

An elegant loving couple dressed in formal wear — he in white tie and tuxedo, she in a patterned evening gown — lounge on a sofa. It is apparently late at night after a party in a stylish Art Deco room  — behind them is a tall arched window with stained glass panes and two enormous urns, and the polished floor reflects her dress. He is holding part of a newspaper, the rest having slipped into a pile on the floor. His arm is around her shoulder, and hers around his knee as she gazes up at him adoringly. It might have been created as illustration art for publication.

Product description continues below.


May Wilson (Mary) Preston was an American painter and illustrator. Born Mary Wilson in New York City, she went by May most of her life. She studied at the Art Students League with William Merritt Chase and National Academy of Design in New York, and at the Whistler School in Paris. She and her husband, painter James M. Preston, were associated with the Ashcan School, an important movement in turn-of-the-century New York emphasizing realistic portrayal of urban life; she frequently exhibited with them. She brought this sensibility to her magazine illustration work. Among her many accomplishments, she exhibited in the famous Armory Show of 1913, which brought the most advanced ideas in art to the American public, and won a medal in the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915. In 1904 Preston was also the first — and for many years only — woman member of the Society of Illustrators, to this day the preeminent organization of professional illustrators. She published illustrations regularly in the Saturday Evening Post and other leading magazines. At the height of her career she was one of the highest paid illustrators in America.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Some minor dampstains lower margin edge, unobtrusive and mostly hidden by frame. Simple modernist gold leaf frame with expected wear.


Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1985. 495.

“May Wilson (Mary) Preston.” AskArt. (29 December 2020).

Tikkanen, Amy. “May Wilson Preston.” Britannica. (29 December 2020).

Additional information


20th Century