George Hitchcock spent the latter half of his life in Holland, where he painted in a brightly colorful style that contrasted with the somber conventions of the Dutch masters. “I could never make out,” he said, “why artists should shun light and loveliness. There is light in Holland. There are charm and beauty. If the old women here are very plain, the girls are pretty, and wear pretty costumes. And the Dutch sunlight is not yellow, brown or golden. Sunlight, as I have discovered, is pale blue in tone. That is why I put so much blue and violet in my pictures.”
This figure painting of Calypso, the nymph who saved shipwrecked Odysseus and held him on her island for seven years, is illustrative of this very “light and loveliness.” The choice of a mythological subject represents a departure for the artist, who preferred to paint peasant women in local dress. The lack of any symbolism or narrative element to identify the model with Calypso suggests a purely aesthetic motivation; the use of a classical white gown to harmonize with the reflected light of the cloudy blue sky and flourishing violets.