The Barbara Belgrade Spargo Collection: Facets of Modernity (1900-1950)

January 13 - April 1, 2012


Wall labels for objects in the exhibition


Peggy Bacon (1895-1987)
Sitting by the Fire, 1945

Gifford Beal (1879-1956)
After the Storm/Couple, n.d.
Oil on board
Gifford Beal, like his older brother, Reynolds Beal (1866-1951) studied art with William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). He later attended Princeton University and the Art Students League in New York, gaining a brilliant early education in the arts. His success came quickly as he was appointed a member of the National Academy of Design in 1914 after winning multiple prizes for his paintings and watercolors.
The double-sided painting After the Storm/Couple attests to the diversity of Beal's subject matter. He enjoyed representing people from different walks of life as well as landscapes from the East Coast where he spent many summers. After the Storm/Couple likely dates to the last two decades of the artist's life, when he developed a freer style in which the abstract qualities of his subjects were emphasized in bright and vibrant paintings.

Reynolds Beal (1866-1951)
Chase's Tenth Street Studio, ca. 1894
Oil on canvas
Considered one of America's earliest Impressionist painters, Beal attended Cornell University, where he studied naval architecture. However, he turned to fine art in 1896 when he enrolled at William Merritt Chase's Shinnecock Summer School. Fortunate to have the support of his family's wealth, Beal spent the next several years traveling and painting in Portugal, the Caribbean, and the west coast of the United States. His playful and lively paintings made Beal highly popular and successful, and he went on to help found the Society of Independent Artists and the New Society of Artists with George Bellows, Childe Hassam, John Sloan, William Glackens and Maurice Prendergast.
As the title suggests, Chase's Tenth Street Studio depicts the famous studio of William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). Located at 51 West 10th Street in New York's Greenwich Village, it was a legendary building previously occupied by such influential artists as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church, and Winslow Homer. Beal's painting captures Chase's studio as a repository of objects -- paintings, antique furniture, samovars, and other cultural artifacts acquired through years of extensive travel. While the studio showcased Chase's refinement and connection with tradition, he deeply resented being considered conservative or academic, for his lack of sentimentality and idealism had caused the true academics to reject his style. Chase warned his students, who included Georgia O'Keeffe, Rockwell Kent, Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and Joseph Stella, against "working too conscientiously," instead encouraging them to be "not exactly careless, but very free."

Philip Evergood (1901-1973)
Nirvana on Long Island, 1949
Oil on board
Born in New York and educated in England, Philip Evergood studied sculpture at Slade School before coming back to study painting with George Luks (1867-1933) at the Art Students League. The youthful Evergood was deeply affected by the human toll of the Great Depression and committed himself to depicting the compelling quality of people's lives: achievements as well as failures. While he always remained a socially-conscious painter, his later work became increasingly symbolic, fantastical, and personal in nature, establishing his reputation as a prominent Magic Realist.
Nirvana on Long Island is a whimsical, dreamlike image of bliss. Land, water, and air melt into a single sea of sherbet aquamarine that envelops the figures while they indulge in various leisurely activities. Always striving to imbue his paintings with emotional impact, Evergood employed dramatic distortion, caricatured figures, and free use of color to express a carefree, fanciful, and almost childlike vision. Thus, he conjures a playful take on the Buddhist concept of nirvana, the definition of which he inscribed on the reverse side of the picture: "that perfect condition a Buddhist attains when his mind has achieved a state of perfect peace and rest."

Don Freeman (1908-1978)
Ask the Mayor, 1936
Oil on canvas
An illustrator, painter and lithographer, Don Freeman was born in San Diego, California, where he studied at the San Diego School of Fine Arts. Moving to New York City in 1928, he attended the Art Students League and studied with John Sloan (1871-1951) and Harry Wickey (1892-1968). Known for always carrying a sketchbook, Freeman depicted city life and everyday faces in the streets, subways and theaters during the Great Depression. He made the circus, Broadway theaters and politics frequent subjects for his work and was a contributing illustrator for such publications as the Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Beginning in 1951, he immersed himself in writing and illustrating children's books, such as the beloved story of Corduroy.
Ask the Mayor captures New York City in a period of great transition, when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (1882-1947) initiated large-scale, public projects using federal funds from President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) and began moving from a patronage to a merit-based system for granting government jobs. The painting presents a group of petitioners awaiting their turn to address the mayor. At the center of the crowd is an elderly woman, whose warm and sincere expression casts an atmosphere of quiet anticipation rather than mayhem over the entire scene.
William Glackens (1870-1938)
Head of Jean, 1918
Oil on canvas
Philadelphia-born Glackens began his career as an artist-reporter first for the Record and later at the Philadelphia Press, where he joined fellow illustrators John Sloan (1871-1951), George Luks (1866-1933), and Everett Shinn (1876-1953). While taking classes at the Pennsylvania Academy, Glackens and Sloan became acquainted with Robert Henri (1865-1929), whom Glackens accompanied to Europe in 1895.
Gradually, Glackens' paintings began to show the influence of Henri's Manet-like style and their trip abroad. Moving away from genteel academic paintings, Glackens started to paint urban life and immigrant and working-class neighborhoods of New York City, where he lived beginning in 1896. In 1904, he married artist Edith Dimock (1876-1955), a native of Hartford, Connecticut.
Completed in 1918, Head of Jean reflects yet another evolution in Glackens' approach to painting. After a number of subsequent trips to France, where Glackens became particularly interested in the works of Impressionist master Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), he abandoned his dark palette. Like Portrait of a Young Girl, currently on view in the adjacent Impressionist Gallery, Head of Jean is a vivid studio portrait rendered with expressive, feathery brush strokes and a bright, almost explosive palette. Glackens' use of blazing color has been described as a "play at painting" by critic Forbes Watson. "There is no tormented, morbid struggle with profound life facts disturbing him. He doesn't delve deeply into psychology. The color of the world makes him thoroughly happy, and to express that happiness in color has become his first and most natural impulse."

Henry Glintenkamp (1887-1946)
Window Shopper, 1912
Watercolor on paper
Born in Augusta, New Jersey, Glintenkamp received his elementary art training at the National Academy of Design before his study with Robert Henri (1865-1929) from 1906 to 1908. One student's recollection of Henri's classes gives an indication as to the influence Henri had on pupils such as Glintenkamp: "The old idea was to learn to draw the figure before the student had ideas. Henri's idea was to have ideas first, paint pictures, make composition, which is the same thing; learn to draw as you go along. He taught us to paint from the inside out so to speak, try to find that inner thing that made one particular man or woman different from any other man or woman."
In addition to learning from Henri how to closely convey human qualities, Glintenkamp was also inspired by his teacher's preoccupation with depicting the lived urban experience of various social classes. The artist developed a strong devotion to humanitarian causes, which was most directly reflected in his illustrations for The Masses, a socialist journal whose contributors also included artists George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Rockwell Kent, Reginald Marsh, John Sloan, and writer Upton Sinclair. Window Shopper, which at first glance appears to simply illustrate a moment of everyday life, may actually reveal a subtle, satirical jab at consumerist culture upon closer inspection. The store front, with its door widely ajar, beckons the window shopper. While her feet begin to inch toward the entrance, the rest of her body remains completely motionless. Mesmerized by the luxurious goods inside, she appears to be frozen mid-step, trance-like and unaware of the magnetic force pulling her toward the entrance.

Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
Grapes in a Bowl, 1923
Marsden Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine, and was educated there, as well as in Cleveland and New York. Typical of many artists of his generation, he had a strong attraction to the inventions of European Avant-Garde art and a willingness to selectively borrow from them. Through his friendship with Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), one of the foremost promoters of modern art, Hartley was introduced to legendary European artists including Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Henri Rousseau (1844-1910). Exposure to their work increased Hartley's desire to travel to France and Germany, which he did extensively throughout his life.
Grapes in a Bowl was completed while Hartley lived in Berlin, a period during which he was particularly interested in still-life compositions and fruit motifs, likely because of his admiration for Cézanne's still life paintings. Hartley was drawn to the medium of lithography because it was relatively inexpensive in a time when money was very scarce. The inclusion of ceramic ware in many of his still lifes was partly a nostalgic gesture to memorialize the few domestic treasures he could afford to keep as a young, itinerant artist.
Wilmont Emerton Heitland
Venetian Brooklyn, 1922
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Born in Wisconsin, Wilmont Heitland studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and also in New York at the Art Students League, where he eventually became an instructor of illustration. Lauded by contemporary critics for his "natural flair" for watercolor and his ability to construct composition "swiftly and directly . . . achieving a sparkling and powerful result," Heitland established a national reputation as a watercolorist.
In Venetian Brooklyn, Heitland's palette is particularly striking. He saturated the wall of a weathered tenement building with blue paint sponged into red, while leaving the white paper bare in some areas to delineate laundry hanging on lines, the columns on the narrow tower in the distance, and broad expanses of open sky. His choice of an urban subject treated with attention to its picturesque possibilities links him to the Ashcan School. At the same time, his painterly surfaces and lively color schemes demonstrate his allegiance to the decorative mode of Post-Impressionism.
Robert Henri (1865­1929)
Bass Rocks, 1927
Regarded as one of the finest art teachers in the United States, as well as the leader of the circle of urban realists known as The Eight, Henri believed in the importance of artistic independence. Born Robert Henry Cozad in Cincinnati, Ohio, Henri changed his name to protect himself after his father killed a man. He later studied at the Philadelphia Academy and at the Académie Julian in France.
While Henri had tremendous respect for the Old Masters, he sought to build upon the study of their work to develop a unique, personal voice appropriate to his own time and place, and encouraged his associates and students at the Woman's School of Design and the New York School of Art (formerly the Chase School of Art and currently named Parsons The New School for Design) to do the same. Simultaneously, he advocated for the idea of a national art, or an art based directly on the American experience rather than classical ideals.
Bass Rocks, a late work, is a vibrant seascape executed in the port town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The rapidly applied strokes of color capture the energy of waves as they crash into the coastal rocks. For Henri, landscape provided equal opportunity for expressively conveying experienced reality -- "[it] is a medium for ideasit isn't sufficient that the spacing and arrangement of the composition be correct in formula. The true artist, in viewing the landscape, renders it upon his canvas as a living thing."
Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Study of a Nude Woman, 1901
Charcoal on paper
Edward Hopper is regarded as one of the most significant and iconic realist painters of 20th-century America. Yet his work is also admired by proponents of abstract art, who acclaim his composition, his forms, and his light. The recognition of Hopper's achievements, however, came only after years of struggle. He was 42 when he finally had a one-man show in a commercial gallery in 1924. This exhibition of watercolors was a critical success and all the works were sold, enabling Hopper to cease working as an illustrator and devote himself entirely to painting.
Study of a Nude Woman is an early work from Hopper's student days at the New York School of Art, where he studied with William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Robert Henri (1852-1929), and Kenneth Hayes Miller (1876-1952) from 1900 to 1906. Hopper has observed a woman standing in a classic contrapposto pose, considered by the ancient Greeks to be the most natural and "human" stance. With the figure's weight resting on her left leg, the right remains bent and relaxed, allowing the spine to fall into a slight S-shaped curve. The study demonstrates the traditional training that served as the foundation for Hopper's distinct representational style, modern for its emphasis on geometrical relationships, effects of light, elimination of superfluous details from a composition, and frequently explored themes of loneliness and isolation.
Ernest Lawson (1873-1939)
Aspens, ca. 1928
Oil on canvas
Originally from Nova Scotia, the itinerant Lawson lived and studied in Kansas City and Mexico before arriving in New York in 1891 to enroll at the Art Students League. There, he was taught by Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919) and John H. Twatchman (1853-1902), whose gestural impressionistic style influenced Lawson greatly. Lawson's trip to France in 1893 confirmed his allegiance to the impressionist aesthetic. The only true landscapist of The Eight, he dedicated himself to painting the fast-changing landscape of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers after his return from Europe. As one anonymous critic once remarked, "Mr. Lawson gives us New York treated as nature."
In Aspens, Lawson constructed thick layers of paint like a sculptor molding clay. In fact, he was known for using a variety of tools, such as a palette knife, trowel, and even his own thumb to build up his surfaces. The tactile quality of the paint undulates over the canvas, as if mimicking the wind that blows against the trees.
George Benjamin Luks (1867-1933)
Figure By Lamplight, 1908
Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Luks displayed his innate ability to observe and capture life around him at an early age. This aptitude made him an undisciplined student in formal settings, and he studied only briefly at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Arts Academy in Düsseldorf. In the 1890s, he traveled throughout Europe learning directly from observing the works of the Old Masters, and upon his return he joined the Philadelphia Press as an illustrator. It was then that he met William Glackens (1870-1938), John Sloan (1876-1953), Everett Shinn (1876-1953) and their mentor Robert Henri (1865-1929).
Moving to New York in 1896, Luks continued to work as an illustrator for the World. After his 1903 trip to Paris, however, he dedicated himself to painting in oil and watercolor. As a member of The Eight, Luks is known for his brash, confident brushwork and depictions of everyday subjects.
Figure By Lamplight is a moody street scene executed with the kind of spontaneity, expression, and compositional economy that made Luks a successful staff artist for a newspaper and master of the watercolor medium. The central male turns away from the viewer, his face mysteriously hidden despite the illumination from the lamplight. With a lack of contour, it is unclear whether he is alone or with a companion. The indefinite shapes and shadows that fill the composition help capture the sense of visual uncertainty experienced at night.

Reginald Marsh (1898-1954)
Flying Acrobats, 1940
Watercolor on rice paper
Marsh, born in Paris, graduated from Yale University and later relocated to New York City to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator. He worked regularly for the New Yorker, The Daily News, and The Evening Post, depicting contemporary social and historical events. In 1922, Marsh enrolled at the Art Students League and began painting scenes that captured the energy of New York City, particularly of Coney Island, burlesque shows, the Bowery, movie houses, and trains. He shared his interest in urban subject matter with George Luks (1867-1933), one of his teachers at the League.
By the mid-1930s, Marsh was known as America's foremost painter-reporter of the tawdriness and dreary shabbiness of the city during the Great Depression. He remained a strong presence in the New York art scene as an academician at the National Academy of Design and a teacher of drawing and painting at the League until his death.
Flying Acrobats is bustling with action and movement in bodies, arms, legs, and heads -- a slice of raw life, painted with great vitality. Marsh completed it in monochromatic watercolor on paper with subtle washes of yellow, pink, and blue, a technique to which he had returned after almost a decade of painting in tempera. The robust and muscular physique of the female acrobat in the foreground is in line with Marsh's interest in the American woman as both a powerful and sexual figure within the modern public sphere, in which he believed individuals are cast daily as both spectators and performers on display.

Alfred Maurer (1868-1932)
Two Dancing Figures, 1920
Gouache on paper
Born in New York City, Alfred Maurer was the son of Louis Maurer (1832-1932), a commercial artist for the printmaking firm Currier & Ives. After studying at the National Academy of Design, he immigrated to Paris in 1897 and remained there until 1914. Maurer was hailed as one of the most promising artists of his generation after creating subtly toned and psychologically acute portraits in the style of James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). By 1906, however, Maurer was caught up in the modern movements through his appreciation of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)and Henri Matisse (1869-1954), shared by the expatriates Maurer befriended abroad -- notably collectors Gertrude and Leo Stein and artist Max Weber (1881-1961). Despite being dubbed an "apostle of ugliness" by some contemporary critics, Maurer was well-respected within modernist circles, exhibiting at Alfred Stieglitz's 291 Gallery and later the 1913 Armory Show. Sadly, depressed and isolated, Maurer in his 60s committed suicide.
As one of the first American artists to paint in the fauvist style, Maurer infamously used loose brushstrokes to create abstracted yet recognizable figures, as can be seen in Two Dancing Figures. Inspired and liberated by Matisse's expressive use of color, Maurer applied pigment with immediacy and force. With only minimal use of shading, the artist instead employed thick, dark lines to denote shape and contour. Even so, the color boldly pulsates in and out of its given borders, dancing freely across the surface just as the figures to whom it gives form.
Jerome Myers (1867-1940)
Backyard, 1887
Oil on board
On Rivington Street, ca. 1910
Colored etching
Myers was born in Petersburg, Virginia to poverty and unstable family life. His father, described by his son as an "incorrigible roving spirit," left his wife and children to find his own fortune. When his mother became hospitalized in 1877, Myers and his four siblings were temporarily placed into foster homes. Later he moved to New York City where he began attending night classes at Cooper Union and Art Students League. Myers found academic training to be stifling and preferred to sketch the colorful life of New York's streets more freely.
The etching On Rivington Street a showcases Myers' affinity to fresh color -- one can discern the different plates used to separately print shades of brown, red, yellow, orange, and green. With immigrants from the Lower East Side of New York City as the subject matter, On Rivington Street also demonstrates Myers' affinity to the common people of the city. As the artist himself recalled, "[I] felt one with them from the beginning and enjoyed nothing as much as being in their midst."
Jane Peterson (1876-1965)
Palma, Mallorca (Spain), n.d.
Oil on canvas
Peterson went to Europe in 1907 on the cusp of the Fauvist movement. In Spain she studied with Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923), who inspired her to paint in a spontaneous manner, using a colorful palette applied in broad bands emphasizing the influences of both Fauvism and Impressionism. While in Europe she often traveled with Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924), Childe Hassam (1859-1935) and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). She was considered to be one of the foremost women artists of her time. In Palma, Mallorca Peterson demonstrated her ability to channel all the skills that she had been taught into her own unique style.

Abraham Rattner (1895-1978)
New York from my Studio #2, 1942
Abraham Rattner was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. His family was originally from Russia and fled to America because his father, a rabbinical student, wanted to leave behind the anti-Semitism of czarist Russia. Rattner's studies in art and architecture were interrupted when the United States entered World War I, whereupon Rattner volunteered to serve in the Army and became a specialist in camouflage design. After the war, he resumed his schooling and eventually settled in France for a 20-year residence. There, he befriended such avant-garde artists as Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Georges Braque (1882-1963) and architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965) and himself developed a cubist style, interpreting nature in bold, vibrant color arrangements.
In 1939, with the tensions of World War II increasing, Rattner returned to the United States, forging a link between French abstraction and American expressionism. In New York from my Studio #2, Rattner deconstructs the view from his window into a dynamic composition unified by soft, billowing washes that resemble smokestacks. The urban landscape is rendered with close architectural detail: a church steeple, a neoclassical façade and multiple skyscrapers and water towers project out from the picture plane, which is shared with various objects from the studio interior. The resulting image presents a fragment of subjective reality as experienced by the artist, in which virtually nothing separates the realm of his studio from the world beyond it.

Anne Ryan (1889-1954)
Spanish Noon, 1938
Oil on canvas
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Anne Ryan was a woman of many trades -- a writer, entrepreneur, and artist. In 1923 she left a marriage in New Jersey for the life of a poet and journalist, traveling alone to Spain and then settling in Greenwich Village, where she opened a restaurant to support her children. In 1941 she enrolled in Stanley William Hayter's (1901-1988) print-making workshop and learned etching, intaglio, monotype, woodcut and printing and carving on plaster. It was not until Ryan saw an exhibition of German Dada artist Kurt Schwitters' (1887-1948) work that she developed a passion for collage, the medium for which she is best known today.
Spanish Noon was completed after Ryan returned from Europe and immersed herself in New York City's milieu of excitement and vision of gifted, young artists who were defining themselves in new, abstract ways. Encouraged by master colorist Hans Hofmann (1880-1968), Ryan responded by developing her own painterly style. Spanish Noon presents her daring use of color and pattern to produce a still life, in which experienced reality is filtered through and distorted by the artist's own, unique perceptions.
Henry Schnakenberg (1892-1970)
Across the Tracks, 1916
Oil on canvas
Henry Schnakenberg was born in Staten Island, New York, where he worked as an insurance representative at his father's firm until a trip to the 1913 Armory Show changed the course of his life. Having been profoundly inspired by what he saw, he decided to become an artist and enrolled at the Art Students League. There, he had the good fortune to have Kenneth Hayes Miller (1876-1952) and John Sloan (1871-1951) as teachers. Their emphasis on urban realism and its gritty details played an important role in shaping Schnakenberg's career. Particularly known for his ability to capture the form and texture of the world around him, Schnakenberg has been praised for being able to "build a completely satisfying composition out of something no more grandiose than a weather-beaten fencepost covered with scarlet ivy." After serving in the army during World War I, he went on to paint independently and teach at the League, where he was elected president in 1932.
Across the Tracks presents a modernized take on the classical image of the bather, which traditionally consisted of a nude female figure or a group of figures in a bucolic, outdoor setting. Schnakenberg's picture, however, depicts several boys in a landscape that is far from idyllic. With railroad tracks and a freight train looming over the young bathers, their retreat into nature and leisure is interrupted by the ultimate symbol of industry and labor, reminding the viewer of the sweeping changes brought on by technology, industrialization, and the spirit of progress.
Henry Schnakenberg (1892-1970)
Depot Canteen (Penn Station Canteen), 1944
Oil on canvas
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Schnakenberg worked for the Section of Fine Arts, a New Deal program similar to the WPA established by the federal government to provide work for Americans during the Great Depression. The exaggerated figures and use of bold lines to delineate forms in Depot Canteen (Penn Station Canteen) demonstrates the influence of Schnakenberg's mural projects on the easel paintings done in the second half of his career.
In Depot Canteen (Penn Station Canteen), soldiers and sailors line up at the Pennsylvania Station canteen in New York City. As the United States mobilized for war, canteens were set up all over the country as morale-boosting stations, where the troops were fed and entertained. The prominent place of two African-American soldiers within the painting's composition indicates that unlike most canteens, Penn Station Canteen was not segregated. Still, the two soldiers stand apart from the rest of the servicemen, reminding the viewer that racial separation was still a reality even for integrated military units and public spaces. While important strides were made during World War II toward desegregation of the military, full integration was not achieved until the 1950s, with the last all-African-American unit being disbanded in 1954.
Everett Shinn (1876-1953)
Reclining Nude, 1908
Originally from New Jersey, Shinn moved to Philadelphia in 1888 to attend the Spring Garden Institute to study mechanical and architectural drawing. After working as a designer of gas light fixtures for two years, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and went on to become a successful illustrator at a young age. While working at the Philadelphia Press, he met William Glackens (1870-1938), George Luks (1867-1933) and John Sloan (1871-1951), and eventually moved to New York in 1897 to become a member of The Eight.
Sponsored by the French art dealers Léon Boussod and Réne Valadon, Shinn traveled to Europe in 1900. There, he discovered the work of Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and began to explore the subjects of theater, vaudeville and spectacle, which ultimately came to dominate his work.
At first glance, the subject of Reclining Nude appears to be a miniature of Olympia, painted by Édouard Manet (1832-1883) in 1863. Instead of a servant delivering a bouquet of flowers from behind a brocade curtain, however, Shinn has depicted a second young woman, whose exposed breasts reveal that she and the "reclining nude" share the same occupation. Shinn's use of varying shades of a single, dark color provides a subtle commentary on the morally murky nature of brothels.

John Sloan (1871-1951)
Moors Toward Autumn, 1914
Oil on canvas
John Sloan grew up in Philadelphia, dropping out of school at the age of 16 to support his family. While working at a bookstore which also sold fine art prints, he taught himself how to etch and began selling his prints and card designs. By his early twenties, he was working as a professional illustrator along with the other Philadelphia Four -- William Glackens (1870-1938), George Luks (1867-1933), and Everett Shinn (1876-1953). While also taking classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, he met his lifelong friend and mentor, Robert Henri (1865-1929), who encouraged him and his fellow illustrators to paint.
After moving to New York City in 1904, Sloan was inspired by the everyday life of the working class and often wandered the streets, sketching scenes from which he would later paint and etch. Although he did not pursue training abroad, his encounter with European art during the 1913 Armory Show, which he described as a "clarion call for freedom," left a profound impression.
Particularly taken by the structure and texture in the work of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) seen at the Armory, Sloan began to experiment with color, form, and composition. This effort is most evident in his 1914-1919 canvases painted at the seaport of Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he summered with Stuart Davis (1892-1964) and other artists. Sloan completed Moors Toward Autumn during this extremely fruitful period using thick paint application, lively vertical brush strokes, and the Maratta color theory, a complicated method endorsed by Henri that equated certain color tones with musical notes. The fiery painting demonstrates Sloan's belief that nature offered "the best means of advance in color and design."
John Sloan (1871-1951)
Girl Undressing (Stockings), 1927
Oil on panel
Girl Undressing (Stockings) depicts a subject who can be defined as a "New Woman" of the 20th century. She meets the gaze of the viewer with casual self-confidence and ease. Like Moors Toward Autumn, the painting demonstrates Sloan's interest in color relationships, as he blends and repeats the use of the primary colors red, yellow, and blue. The straight lines forming the architecture and wallpaper of the interior are subtly balanced with the curves of the oval picture frame, the circular carpet patterns, and most notably, the roundness of the girl's figure. Because Sloan loved to depict "real," hearty women, his nudes are in sharp contrast to the delicate images of languid, decorative women generally popular in the late 19th century.
John Von Wicht (1880-1970)
Untitled #22, ca. 1946
Born in Holstein, Germany, Von Wicht received his early training at Grand Duke of Hesse's Private Art School, the precursor to the Bauhaus. There, he learned the fundamental themes of simplicity, nature, and poetry. He went on to study at the Berlin School of Applied and Fine Arts and received numerous scholarships, enabling him to travel and exhibit his work throughout Europe. During World War I, Von Wicht was wounded and partially paralyzed. While recovering, he worked on book designs and illustration work and discovered the artists Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) and Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935).
After emigrating from a post-war Berlin and its economic hardships in 1923, he and his wife settled in Brooklyn Heights, which was home to a thriving art community. He began working for the U.S. Printing and Lithograph Company and later moved on to mosaics and mural work, taking on many commissions such as the vestibule for the St. Louis Cathedral executed in a classic Byzantine manner.
In Untitled #22, Von Wicht presents a modern mosaic, undoubtedly influenced by the geometric abstractions of Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Seemingly independent forms are assembled into a single, harmonious composition in which pockets of bright, saturated color delight the eye.
William Zorach (1887-1966)
Mother and Child, ca. 1950
Lithuanian-born William Zorach studied in New York before traveling to Paris in 1910-11. There, he met his wife, artist Marguerite Thompson (1887-1968) while taking classes at an art school called "La Palette." Like Marguerite, William was interested in Cubism and Expressionism; however, he departed from painting, and in doing so created sculptures that remain true testaments to the power of early American Modernism. Both William and Marguerite exhibited at the important 1913 Armory Show in New York.
The sculpture Mother and Child is dedicated to the timeless theme of unconditional love that exists between a mother and her child. Zorach frequently revisited this subject, often forming the figures into an inseparable unit in which the mother holds the child in a protective embrace. Zorach worked slowly and painstakingly on his sculptures by carving directly in stone and wood to create molds, rejecting the simpler process of modeling in clay. Inspired by ancient, non-Western carvers of the past, he sought to convey basic, universal human emotions and experiences to create "eternal art" that has "the quality of being removed from the temporary."


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