This painting, entitled Anywhere Out of the World (1915 – 19) may be a self portrait. Mark Chagall (1887 – 1985) bisected the head of the figure because, as he explained it, it “needed a bank space right there“ to strengthen the composition. The pictorial strategy, which appears in some of his earlier paintings, could be a rendition of the “luftmensch,“ a Yiddish term used to describe a person who is concerned with intellectual pursuits rather than with the practicalities of life. The sideways cityscape adds tension to the scene. The painting’s overall geometrization is reminiscent of El Lissitzky’s Proun paintings — abstract compositions meant to be looked at from various vantage points.
In Florine Stettheimer’s frequent group portraits, her family and friends are not only clearly identifiable, but represented in attitudes that express their inner selves — an idea with roots in Symbolist painting of the late nineteenth century. In Family Portrait I (1915), she shares an elegant afternoon outdoors wither sisters and mother. Ettie, at left with a Japanese parasol is turned away, conversing with Carrie, who gazes at the viewer. Florine, too, looks outward, presiding over each bouquet of flowers and a dish of fruit that pays homage to the apples of Paul Cezanne. Their mother, Rosetta, the proper Victorian in black, is reading a novel by Ettie, the family intellectual.
Thick brushwork, deep jewel-tone colors, shallow perspective, and wealth of surface pattern all suggest Stettheimer’s familiarity with Post-Impressionist painters such as Pierre Bonnard and Paul Gauguin, infused with her own brand of social perceptiveness
Pampatar Board (1954) heralds the arrival of Colorythms, a series of paintings that, to Venezuelan artist Alejandro Otero (1921 – 1991) are “imbued with the constructive meaning given to me by an intimate and passionate contact with architectural rhythm and space.” In the 1950s, Otero worked with architects on several new public projects to modernize Caracas, often contributing his original murals.
This work’s monumental verticality reflects the artist’s interest in modern architecture, while the composition’s rhythmic arrangement of vivid colors, obtained from industrial paints traditionally used on automobiles, conveys the dynamism of modern urban life that inspired Otero.
A domestic worker who labored for many years in a convent before becoming a housekeeper, Seraphine Louis (1864 – 1942) painted floral motifs on household items, canvases and boards. Her talent was recognized by one of her employers, the German art critic, dealer, and collector Wilhelm Uhde. The title Tree of Paradise (1928) suggests a concern with religious themes, and the work’s arrangement of jewel-like leaves recalls the stained glass windows of Gothic churches. Louis flattened the elements of landscape into a single plane; a tree extends diagonally across water, as grass and sky weave together to create a decorative interplay of patterns.
This elaborate automaton is a reproduction of the original Chess Player (The Turk) built by Hungarian author and inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen. Touted as an android that could defeat chess masters, von Kempelen’s famed illusion debuted at the court of Empress Maria Theresa during wedding celebrations for her daughter in 1769. Over the course of the eighteenth century, the Chess Player (known in its time as The Turk for its robes and turban) won games against Catherine the Great and Benjamin Franklin. When Napoleon Bonaparte tried to cheat, The Turk wiped all the pieces from the chessboard. In reality, a chess master would hide inside the lefthand cupboard.
The mysterious machine sparked discussions of the possibilities and limits of artificial intelligence, and it inspired development of the power loom, the telephone, and the computer. The original and its secrets were destroyed in a fire in 1854. This reproduction is by American magician, John Gaughan.
Photographed as part of the exhibit Making Marvels at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
With elements of both figuration and abstraction, Walter Price’s paintings shift between everyday realities and invented worlds. Couches and cars float and merge into landscapes as space expands and contracts. Price’s subjects are drawn from his own experiences as well as familiar cultural symbols. The artist’s fluency with color, texture, and form gives physical weight to these liminal, dreamlike spaces. In making each new series of works, Price also sets limits. Sometimes he challenges himself to create a big impact on a small scale; in other paintings, as with The Things That Horse Ourselves for Uncertainty (2018), he reduces his palette to only a few colors. Mixing fragments of memory, recurring signs and symbols, and abstract figures engaged in unclear, ambiguous interactions, the paintings refuse the viewer’s efforts to find a fixed perspective or narrative.
The sitter of this arresting work, Portrait of a Young Man (1530s) remains unknown, but he was part of Bronzino’s close circle of literary friends in Florence, and probable holds a book of poetry. The artist was himself a poet, delighting as much in the beauty of language as he did in the witty and fanciful details of his paintings. Here, viewers would have appreciated the carved grotesque heads on the table and chair, and the almost hidden, mask-like face suggested in the folds of the youth’s breeches as comments unmasks and disguises. Bronzino has delineated a sophisticated visual identity for the sitter.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
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.”
This linoleum cut print, Speed Trial (1932), was inspired by Bluebird, a race car that reached a velocity of 246 miles per hour at Daytona Beach, Florida in 1932, breaking the land-speed record. Artist Cyril Edward Power (1872 – 1951) used rhythmic, repetitive curves to conjure the rushing motion of the aerodynamic vehicle. He printed the image using three layers of color: light blue, dark blue, and green. He stipulated that the dark blue should be printed “dark on bonnet, paling to tail” — a graded passage that emphasizes the engine, at the front of the car, as the source of its power.
In 1960, Toshinobu Onosato reevaluated his approach to the circle, a form that for much of the previous decade he had presented as monochromatic surfaces whose simplicity was emphasized by surrounding webs of intersecting lines.
Painting A, Detail
According to the artist, dividing the circle through the “the piling up of color planes” allows for better understanding of the shape’s true dimensions. Born from a desire to capture brightness and harmony, works such as Painting A (1961 – 62) vibrate with energy that relates to — but remains separate from — the illusory effects sought by Op artists.
Photographed as part of the exhibit The Fullness of Color: 1960’s Paintings at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan