Autumn
by Alfred Maurer
19.8-Maurer_Autumn
Alfred Maurer (American, 1868-1932), Autumn, ca. 1911–12. Oil on canvas, 18 × 15 in. (45.7 × 38.1 cm). Fern Karesh Hurst

Alfred Maurer
Autumn, cs. 1911-1912
Oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in. (45.7 x 38.1 cm)
Fern Karesh Hurst

The subject
Landscapes comprised the bulk of Maurer’s Fauve output between 1907 and 1913. [1] He often worked en plein air in the Champagne region, northeast of Paris. [2] After spending the summers painting in the country, he regularly exhibited his landscapes in the Salon d’Automne in Paris. [3]

The style
The early-twentieth-century critic Charles Caffin explained that Maurer’s Fauve landscapes were not aimed “at the representation of landscape, but at the projection on the panel of the color-harmonies with which for the moment nature has inspired him.” [4]

To the Armory Show
Maurer’s career took a pivotal turn in 1913: he had his first solo exhibition, at the Folsom Galleries in New York from January 15 to 29, and a month later he contributed four paintings to the Armory Show. Reviews of the Folsom exhibition frequently linked it to the upcoming Armory Show. [5]  The New York Sun, for instance, noted that Maurer’s exhibition was “an advance agent of the cult” of avant-garde painting would shortly be seen at the Armory. [6] 

Not for sale?
It is unclear whether Maurer hoped to sell any of the four paintings he lent to the Armory Show. The catalogues annotated by the exhibition co-organizers Walt Kuhn and Elmer MacRae do not list asking prices for any of Maurer’s works, suggesting they were not for sale.

[1] He also produced Fauve still lifes and figure studies. See Stacey Beth Epstein, “Alfred H. Maurer: Aestheticism to Modernism, 1897-1916” (Ph.D. diss., CUNY Graduate Center, 2003), 205.

[2] Maurer painted chiefly in three towns along the Marne: Chezy-sur-Marne, Chateau Thierry, and Chalons-sur-Marne. This set him apart from his Fauve colleagues, who preferred to paint sites on the Norman coast.

[3] Epstein, 209.

[4] Charles H. Caffin, “The Maurers and the Marins at the Photo-Secession Gallery,” Camera Work 27 (July 1909), 41.

[5] “The First American Post-Impressionist,” New York Evening Globe, January 22, 1913.

[6] “Post-Impressionist Shows Work Here,” The Sun (New York), January 18, 1913, 6.

Alfred Maurer (1868-1932)

Alfred Maurer was a pioneering modernist who was among the first American artists to embrace Fauvism. He studied at the National Academy of Design in New York intermittently from 1885 to 1897 before moving to Paris, where he lived from 1897 to 1914. Maurer made his early reputation painting portraits in the style of William Merritt Chase and James McNeill Whistler and genre scenes of contemporary Parisian life. [1] He exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1899 and 1900, and in 1901 he won the first prize at the Carnegie International exhibition for a Whistlerian painting called An Arrangement. [2]

Maurer’s exposure to Post-Impressionist art in Paris led him to gradually abandon his muted Whistlerian palette and work in an avant-garde style. He saw the 1901 Vincent van Gogh retrospective at the Bernheim-Jeune gallery, and the Paul Cézanne exhibition at the 1904 Salon d’Automne. He came to know the dealers who showed Post-Impressionist work, namely Paul Durand-Ruel and Ambroise Vollard, and by 1905 the modern art collector and promoter Gertrude Stein was calling Maurer “an old habitué” of her salon. [3] Most importantly, he contributed two paintings to the 1905 Salon d’Automne, the exhibition where Fauvism debuted. [4] By1907 Maurer had fully abandoned the muted palate of his aestheticizing portraits in favor of the expressionistic brushwork and saturated colors of Fauvism. [5] He worked in that style until approximately 1914. [6]

Maurer was one of the few Americans to exhibit paintings inspired by European modernism in the United States before the Armory Show. Alfred Stieglitz showed his Fauvist work twice at 291 gallery: in a two-person exhibition with John Marin in 1909, and in a 1910 group show of works by young American painters.  [7] In 1912 the Armory Show co-organizers Arthur B. Davies, Walt Kuhn, and Walter Pach approached him for help in planning the exhibition; Kuhn later recalled that Maurer introduced him to Vollard in Paris. [8] Maurer also lent four of his own paintings to the exhibition.

[1] Sheldon Reich, Alfred H. Maurer, 1868-1932 (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1973), 22-25.

[2] Ibid., 27.

[3] Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, 10, quoted in William H. Gerdts, The Color of Modernism: The American Fauves (New York: Hollis Taggart Galleries, 1997), 23.

[4] Stacey Beth Epstein, “Alfred H. Maurer: Aestheticism to Modernism, 1897-1916” (Ph.D. diss., CUNY Graduate Center, 2003), 176.

[5] Ibid., 86. Elizabeth McCausland described his transition to modernism as sudden, but scholars now dispute that: both Reich and Epstein see the transition as more gradual.

[6] Ibid., 180.

[7] Ibid., 222-25.

[8] Walt Kuhn, The Story of the Armory Show (New York: Walt Kuhn, 1938), 10.

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