Two Figures in a landscape signed 'Max Weber' (to the mount) and dated '1912' (upper right) gouache, watercolor and ink on paper laid down on card 7 x 4 3/16in.(18 x 10.5cm) Painted in 1912
PROVENANCE Oscar Krasner Gallery, New York. Bernard Danenberg Galleries, New York (inv. no. 03641).
EXHIBITED McNay Art Institute, Collector's Gallery 7, San Antonio, Texas, November 2- December 31, 1973.
In 1912, the year of the present work, Max Weber was almost thirty years old and living in New York after a long sojourn in Paris. His time in Europe had been extremely fruitful for the artist and firmly cemented his association with the avant-garde circle of American artists living in the city such as Alfred Stieglitz, with whom he collaborated on Camera Work. Most significantly it also exposed Weber to Cubism from the very moment of its emergence.
Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon of 1907 can be cited as the pivotal painting of this period, and the strength of its impact on the most adventurous painters of the day can readily be seen. For Weber this influence appears as early as 1909 in the painting Summer now in the collection of the Smithsonian Art Museum. In Summer, Weber presents three nude figures situated in a natural setting very similar to the present work. The figures are not depicted naturalistically, but in blue flesh tones perhaps an homage and reference to Matisse's Blue Nude of 1907. The faces are mask-like elongated features suggestive of Fang sculpture. This influence echoes Picasso's interest in African sculpture, which he is known to have studied closely as he made numerous preparatory studies for the Demoiselles. Several important exhibitions of African art were held in Paris in the first decade of the century, and the impact of non-European art grew owing to France's colonial links.
Two Figures is an important document of the unique painting style Weber and other American avant-garde artists of the day established in distinction to their counterparts in Europe. It comes from a seminal year in the artist's oeuvre and acts as signpost to the direction that American Art would take in the first decades of the 20th Century.
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