O'Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York

February 18 - May 15, 2016



 

Selected Stettheimer images from the exhibition

 

(above: Florine Stettheimer, American, 1871-1944, Self-Portrait with Palette (Painter and Faun), circa 1915, Oil on canvas, 60 x 71 7/8 in (152.2 x 182.4 cm). Art Properties, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, Gift of the Estate of Ettie Stettheimer, 1967, 1967.17.11)

This painting is one of Stettheimer's earliest modernist self-portraits. Casting off the descriptive approach to color she had learned in art school, she used brilliant hues -- as in the red tree -- for their expressive potential. A creature who seems to have danced right out of Stettheimer's favorite ballet, Afternoon of a Faun, at the same scale as the painter, enhancing the otherworldly mood. Stettheimer's insertion of herself into the composition creates a tension between the modern painter and the primordial landscape around her. Instead of depicting herself as a fashionable, upper-middle-class woman, Stettheimer portrayed herself as a professional artist, holding a palette and brush and wearing the harem pants and red heels in which she worked.

 

(above: Florine Stettheimer, American, 1871-1944, Spring Sale at Bendel's, 1921, Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 in (127 x 101.6 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Miss Ettie Stettheimer, 1951)

In this painting, Stettheimer used her characteristically expressive figures to poke fun at her own privileged world, specifically the annual frenzy that occurred when the luxury clothing store Bendel's had its spring sale. As she often did, she framed the composition with curtains, presenting the painting's action as a kind of theater. Here, women prance in their new finery and leap across the room in order to reach items first. Stettheimer's use of such satire is allied with her friend Marcel Duchamp's Dadaism and was noted by contemporaries such as critic Paul Rosenfeld, who wrote that her work was "an expression of aspects of America, tinged with [the] irony and merriment of a very perceptive and very detached observer."


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