In this cityscape, Andre Derain (1880 – 1954) rendered the London sky with dramatic color. In the summer of 1905, he developed the bright palette of Charring Cross Bridge while painting alongside his elder peer, Henri Matisse in Coullioure, France. There, the two artists produced their most radical paintings to date — paintings purged of shadows and filled with imaginative, unbridled colors. When several of these works were exhibited in Paris that fall, the public and critics found the palette to be startling, and ridiculed their efforts. As Derain later recalled, “It was the era of photography. This may have influenced us, and played a part in our reaction against anything resembling a snapshot of life. Colors became charges of dynamite.”
As an astute observer of Depression-era New York, Raphael Soyer (1899 – 1987) evoked the inner lives on anonymous city dwellers. His paintings frequently depict the new generation of female workers that he encountered in his Union Square neighborhood. Leaving the home for secretarial and clerical jobs, these woman depicted in Office Girls (1936) achieved an independence that was unprecedented for women of the period, even while unemployment remained high among men. While his artist colleagues usually portrayed these young women in optimistic terms, Soyer’s composition strikes a more ambivalent tone. Squeezed between a throng of rushing female workers and a glowering man, the central woman looks out at the viewer with a gaze that is at once weary and unflinching.
Juan Gris (1887 – 1927), a master of disguised images, presents a table brimming with coffee cups, stemmed wineglasses, a large white-footed fruit compote (see from the side and from above) containing thickly painted grapes, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of Bass extra stout ale with its distinctive red diamond logo, a newspaper, and a guitar. Yet, Still Life with Checked Tablecloth (1915) has another equally compelling identity: a Bull’s head. The coffee cup at lower center doubles as the animal’s snout, black-and-white concentric circle at left is a “bull’s eye,” the bottle of ale is an ear, and the sinuous edge of the guitar is the horn. The letters “EAU” on the wine label, which ostensibly stand for “bEAUjolais” can just as easily represent “taurEAU” (Bull).
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC
New York Interior (1921) is an early example of Edward Hopper’s interest in enigmatic indoor scenes, offering an unconventional view of a woman sewing, suggesting the impersonal, yet strangely intimate quality of modern urban life. We glimpse this private moment through a window, with the figure’s turned face and exposed back heightening her anonymity and our awareness of her vulnerability. The woman’s clothing and gesture are reminiscent of the iconic ballet dancers painted by French impressionist Edgar Degas, whom Hopper singled out as the artist whose work he most admired.
The Belgian artist Jean Delville (1867 – 1953) was among the participating artists that feverishly shared Josephin Peladan’s beliefs in the spiritual power of art. Delville exhibited in the first four Salons de la Rose+Croix, earning particular admiration in 1894 for The Death Of Orpheus (1893). During the 19th century, Orpheus, the supernaturally talented poet of classical Western mythology, was a popular paradigm for the artist as enchanter, seer, and martyr whose creations transcend death. In one myth, after Orpheus is dismembered by wild female followers of Dionysus — the god of wine, fertility and madness — his head floats downriver, still singing, and becomes an oracle. Orpheus’s androgynous features, reportedly modeled after the artist’s wife, manifest the Symbolist belief in androgynes as ideal beings that represent the synthesis of opposites into a beautiful and perfect whole.
Photographed as part of the exhibit Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897, at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.
Man Ray (Born Emmanuel Radnitzky, 1890 – 1976) became dissatisfied with his initial composition for this work, The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself With Shadows (1916), which was inspired by a tightrope performance he had seen in a vaudeville show. He had originally arranged pieces of colored paper cut into the shapes of the tightrope dancer’s acrobatic forms. Glancing down at the floor, he noticed that the discarded scraps of paper from which the shapes had been cut formed an abstract pattern resulting from chance. Comparing the accidental pattern with shadows that a dancer might have cast on the floor, he incorporated it into his composition.
Norman Lewis (1909 – 1979), began his art career as a figurative painter, focusing on life in Harlem. In 1946, he announced that he wanted to create art that broke away from what he called “its stagnation in too much tradition.” Inspired by the writings and art of the Russian painter Vasily Kandinsky, one of the first artists to create abstract paintings, Lewis abandoned representation in favor of the “conceptual expression” of ideas. Like other Abstract Expressionists working in New York, Lewis was deep interested in music, and especially jazz, which influenced the painting of Phantasy II (1946). In an automatic process he made a linear composition with boldly colored lines and forms akin to the improvisational structure of jazz.