In 1941, while convalescing from a serious illness, Henri Matisse devised a fresh approach to his interest in repeated motifs: a drawing series that he would published in 1943 as Themes and Variations. Comprising 162 drawings organized into 17 groups, the series mostly depicts female figures reclining or relaxing in chairs. This example, Woman Resting in an Interior (1941) is characterized by the contrast of charcoal and paper and of flatness and depth, as well as by its fluid, energetic line. Other studies in Themes and Variations use a much cleaner line to render the subject. As a whole, the series demonstrates the artist’s commitment to capturing a drawing’s essence through serial reworking.
O. (Osvaldo) Louis Guglielmi (1906 – 1956) described Terror In Brooklyn (1941), one of his best known works, as “a premonition of war and tragedy.” On a desolate Brooklyn street, three nuns are shown entrapped by life-size bell jar; they seem to cower in the presence of a bandaged pelvis that hangs, like a crucifix or relic, from a nearby building. Continue reading Modern Art Monday Presents: O. Louis Guglielmi, Terror In Brooklyn→
Morris Hirshfield (1872 – 1946) began to paint at the age of 65, after retiring from a career making women’s coats, suits and slippers. The flattened, decorative forms of Inseparable Friends (1941) echo his garment-making work. Without distinguishing between the floor and the wall, Hirshfield creates a room through thee planes of shapes and patterns: the women at their mirror, the tasseled curtain above them, and the plant and shoes at their feet. While Hirshfield’s compositions are simplified and stylized, he aimed for meticulous, realistic detail and believed that his figures represented the human body “better than the camera can do.”
Chicago-based surrealist Gertrude Abercrombie (1909 – 1977) was acclaimed for her enigmatic paintings of stark interiors and illusory landscapes. On first glance, Self Portrait As My Sister (1941) appears to be relatively straight-forward representation, lacking the idiosyncratic imagery of her complex, dreamlike works. But Abercrombie was an only child, and the title’s allusion to a sister heightens the paradox of the painting. She frequently used self-portraiture as a means of trying on new guises and personas, later observing, “It’s always myself that I paint, but not actually, because I don’t look that good or cute.” Indeed, in her records she referred to this work as “Portrait of Artist as Ideal.” Her reference to a fictitious and prettier sister hints at desire to be a different person, a longing she could satisfy through her painting.