Seymour Joseph Guy, Temptation, about 1884
Seymour Guy was born and raised in England where he studied art before immigrating to New York City in 1854. When Guy arrived in America, he was already a mature painter specializing in everyday scenes of children. The Victorian art-buying public favored works depicting children, especially those that celebrated middle-class life. His work has a smooth, glossy surface, rich colors, and crisp details. Guy may have acquired his polished style by copying the paintings of seventeenth-century Dutch masters in London. Guy described his method: “I paint up a simple story, trying to get into it as much beauty as possible from color, light, and shade.”
Temptation exemplifies Guy’s command of dramatic lighting effects and varied textures. It tells the simple story of a young girl teasing an infant by dangling a strawberry in front of the baby, who eagerly reaches for the sumptuous treasure. Guy deftly renders the baby’s playfulness, soft skin, and the intricate details of the Victorian rattle, as well as the mischievous character of the little girl. From the powdery green color of the girl’s dress to the velvet pillow, Guy created for his viewers a soothing, reassuring environment devoid of a single sharp angle or harsh contrast.