This is the third in a series of posts related to The European Connection, an exhibition of American modern artists from Crystal Bridges’ collection that will be on view concurrently with the upcoming exhibition of European Modernists: The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism. To view previous posts in this series: click here.
Alfred Maurer was probably one of the first Modernists from the museum’s collection to move to Paris. The exhibition The European Connection presents three paintings by Maurer that will be exhibited for the first time at Crystal Bridges. Maurer lived in Paris from 1897 to 1914, and associated with key figures of the Parisian art scene, including modern art patrons Gertrude and Leo Stein. At one of the Steins’ salons Maurer met influential artist Henri Matisse. Maurer’s painting Landscape (1911) demonstrates the artist fully embraced Matisse’s radical new style of Fauvism: He applied the paint in fast, vigorous brushstrokes, using high-keyed colors to capture the effects of light and his emotions inspired by nature. Characteristic for Fauvism, he integrates the white of the paint surface into the composition, further emphasizing the luminosity of his colors.
Between 1927 and 1932 Maurer painted a series of still lifes including Cubist Still Life (ca. 1930). The fragmentation and simplification of forms as well as the overlapping of geometrical elements is influenced Picasso’s and Braque’s paintings he saw in the Steins’ collection. Cubist Still Life shows Maurer’s interest in the interrelationships between objects and space.
About 1925 he began a series of female head portraits. His Two Heads (ca. 1928) shows Maurer’s typical exaggerated proportions and expressive brushwork and combines early-Cubist and Expressionist influences. The women’s elongated, oval heads, long necks and large dark eyes are reminiscent of portraits by Amedeo Modigliani, an Italian painter who was in Paris at the same time as Maurer. Two Heads mask-like facial expression also reflects Maurer’s interest in African masks and sculptures and his knowledge of Picasso’s work. Their long angular noses further emphasize the figures’ large haunting eyes, both characteristic elements of Maurer’s style from that time.