National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Anne Meyer
Agnes Ernst, the New York Sun's first female reporter, became intrigued by modern art in 1908 when she interviewed Alfred Stieglitz. After her 1910 marriage to financier Eugene Meyer, she became a patron of the Stieglitz circle's crusade for modernism. Along with Marius de Zayas and Paul Haviland, she established the Modern Gallery and the avant-garde journal 291. She also encouraged de Zayas's artistic experiments, including his radical concept of abstract portraiture. Here, oval forms convey Meyer's broad brow, eyes, and prominent chin while curving lines allude to her full-length figure in profile. The symmetrical balance of these elements around a central axis connotes Meyer's classical beauty. The mathematical formula symbolizes her intelligence, and upward-sweeping diagonals indicate Meyer's dynamic progress through life.