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Alfred Maurer Artworks

American painter

Alfred Maurer Photo
Movements and Styles: Fauvism, Synchromism, Early American Modernism

Born: April 21, 1868 - New York

Died: August 4, 1932 - New York

Artworks by Alfred Maurer

The below artworks are the most important by Alfred Maurer - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

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.

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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.

Related Artists and Major Works

Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Artist's Mother (1871)

Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Artist's Mother (1871)

Artist: James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Otherwise known as Portrait of the Artist's Mother, Anna McNeill Whistler is clothed in a long black dress with a simple white lace cap, seated in profile, steadily gazing ahead, and holding a white handkerchief in her lap. On the wall behind her appears a reproduction of Whistler's View of the Thames. The Japanese-inspired floral patterning on the curtain hanging at left denotes the artist's well known interest in the Japanese aesthetic. Whistler's stylized butterfly signature is just visible at the top right corner of this curtain. The arrangement of forms appears simple when in fact there is a careful balancing of shapes at play. For example, the rectangular shapes of the picture on the wall, curtain at left, and the floor help stabilize the sitter's form.

A religiously devout woman, Anna McNeill Whistler had been living with her son in his London home for seven years when he asked her to pose for him after a model canceled a scheduled session. At 67 old, Whistler's mother found it difficult to stand for extended periods of time and so the artist changed the pose to a seated position for her comfort.

In 1891 the painting became the first American work to be purchased by the French government. This elevated Whistler's reputation and aided him in securing wealthy American patrons. Considered an iconic painting, Portrait of the Artist's Mother is one of a very few, including Edvard Munch's The Scream and Grant Wood's American Gothic, that can be appreciated by the art-viewing elite while also resonating with the masses with minimal explanation required. It is overwhelmingly interpreted as symbolic of motherhood, mourning (due to the colors used), or American Puritan Stoicism (because of the sitter's clothes). This particular image has been the source inspiration for many other paintings, including Albert Herter's Portrait of Bessie (1892) and Henry Ossawa Tanner's portrait of his own mother. Whistler's painting has since developed a considerable presence in pop culture, having been referenced in numerous movies, cartoons, and advertisements.

The Woman with a Hat (1905)

The Woman with a Hat (1905)

Artist: Henri Matisse (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Matisse attacked conventional portraiture with this image of his wife. Amelie's pose and dress are typical for the day, but Matisse roughly applied brilliant color across her face, hat, dress, and even the background. This shocked his contemporaries when he sent the picture to the 1905 Salon d'Automne. Leo Stein called it, "the nastiest smear of paint I had ever seen," yet he and Gertrude bought it for the importance they knew it would have to modern painting.

The Dream (1910)

The Dream (1910)

Movement: Post-Impressionism (Read Movement Overview, History, and Artworks pages)

Artist: Henri Rousseau (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

In The Dream, his last and largest painting, Rousseau presented a unique interpretation of the traditional theme of the reclining nude. She is resting on her side, surrounded by the tropical flora and fauna of the mysterious depths of a jungle. Curiously, the woman reclines on a couch, not a patch of grass, observing her exotic surroundings as if at a great remove. Rousseau explained that he depicted the woman as she sat on her sofa in her Parisian apartment, dreaming of the tropical jungle that surrounded her. The lack of perspectival depth, use of bright color, and distorted representations accentuate the dream-like quality of the painting. Although Rousseau repeatedly painted images of jungles, he never even left Paris. Instead, his exoticized images of the non-industrialized world were creations of his own imagination that emphasized his rejection of modernity as well as the preeminence of his individual artistic vision. Like many of his other works, Rousseau's The Dream displays the artist's disregard for naturalistic depiction and realistic content in favor of surreal renderings.

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