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Alfred Maurer

American painter

Alfred Maurer Photo
Born: April 21, 1868
New York
Died: August 4, 1932
New York
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Maurer is a painter of enormous stature. His vision of the reality of painting drove him to leave behind the success that accompanied his earlier work.
Hans Hoffman

Summary of Alfred Maurer

The son of a prominent lithographer for the print firm of Currier & Ives, Alfred Maurer began his career in a conventional manner; he attended the prestigious National Academy of Design in New York, finding success with a realist style akin to James McNeill Whistler, before moving to Paris in 1897. There, he became part of the expatriate circle of American artists in Montparnasse and his paintings were well received in both Paris and New York as part of the circle of artists around Robert Henri. Yet, in 1906, Maurer abandoned this style to become one of the first Americans to adopt a riotous Fauve palette and "primitive" forms. Familiar with Paul C├ęzanne's work and other avant-garde French painters from the salons of Gertrude and Leo Stein, he incorporated their brilliant colors and bold distortions into his work. His balance between abstraction and representation pioneered new terrain for his American audience.

At the outbreak of WWI, Maurer was forced to leave Paris and in the post-war years, the obvious influence of French modernism on his work conflicted with the growing nationalism of American art. Although his "howlers in color" were enthusiastically received by artists and the avant-garde (who continued to believe their forceful palette and energy blazed new artistic ground) Maurer struggled for mainstream recognition and sales. Maurer's artistic endeavors were compounded by the disapproval of his more traditional father; the reasons for the artist's suicide, which followed the death of his father by mere weeks, have been the subject of much speculation.

Accomplishments

Biography of Alfred Maurer

Alfred Maurer Photo

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Important Art by Alfred Maurer

An Arrangement (1901)

An Arrangement (1901)

Painted in a style heavily influenced by Whistler, this work was a critical success for Maurer, winning the gold medal at the juried Carnegie International exhibition in 1901. Even the title reflects the influence of Whistler and the Aesthetic movement, as it suggests a musical composition and the close tonality of a subdued palette. The subject of the painting, a young woman set in a fashionable japoniste background, is less important than the abstract quality of the loose brushwork and harmonious shades of brown, gray, and black. The effect is a meditative mood that is created by the painterly qualities of line and color.

Tulips in a Green Vase, (c. 1911)

Tulips in a Green Vase, (c. 1911)

With bold compositions such as this, Maurer quickly became the most famous American Fauve artist, incorporating the bold colors, abstract forms, and flat space of that style. Rather than using color descriptively, he now embraced its suggestive and emotional potential, using unnatural tones to create a sense of energy or mood. He believed this mode of abstraction conveyed the true essence of his subject. Here, he skillfully balances the bold, gem-like, shades of blues, greens, reds, and yellows, to create flat planes of color that both describe the subject and create a flattened, decorative design. Sending his work back to America for exhibitions, he was an important influence, spreading the theories of Fauvism and the potential for abstract art to artists and audiences in the States.

The Florentines (c. 1929)

The Florentines (c. 1929)

Around 1919, Maurer began two series, Girls and Heads, to which he would return until the end of his life. He adopted a relatively standard format, positioning his sitters alone or in small groups, most often in a simple frontal pose and three-quarter length. The series progresses from fairly representational and naturalistic depictions to more stylized and abstractions renderings. Although they tend to have generic features, they were based on models.

Influenced by a general return-to-order in the postwar years, these paintings convey classicism in both their traditional subject and their calm approach to figuration. They reconnect to the realist paintings that had originally established Maurer's reputation, but break from his earlier illusionism to incorporate a range of primitive, Renaissance, and modernist influences. Critics considered them as "modern madonnas" and noted their Byzantine elongations of the female body; their deliberate awkwardness was celebrated as a powerful interpretation of non-Western masks and carvings.

Content compiled and written by Sarah Archino

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Alfred Maurer Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Archino
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 19 Jun 2017. Updated and modified regularly
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