Walter Pach
Casentino Mountains, 1912
Oil on canvas, 12 ¼ by 18 in. (31.1 x 45.7cm)
Mrs. Nikifora N. Iliopoulus

The subject
Two of the ten works Pach exhibited at the Armory Show were paintings he had executed in Italy in the summer of 1912: Portrait of Gigi Cavigli of Arezzo and Casentino Mountains. During that trip Pach spent a great deal of time in the Tuscan hillside town of Arezzo, where he studied the frescoes by the Renaissance master Piero della Francesca in the Church of San Francesco. [1]

The style
With its expressive use of color and flattened, abstracted, and somewhat distorted forms, Casentino Mountains shows the influence of the modernist aesthetics that Pach had studied in Paris. In the fall of 1910 he enrolled in classes at the Académie Ranson with the French Nabi painters Paul Sérusier and Maurice Denis, who instructed students in composition, painting, and color theory. Pach also learned about color from Pierre-Auguste Renoir, whom he greatly admired and whom he interviewed in 1908 and 1911. [2]

The response
Response to Casentino Mountains in the press was mixed. While a cartoon that appeared in the Chicago Tribune asked readers to distinguish it from work done by patients at the city’s Cook County Insane Asylum, the paper’s art critic Harriet Monroe called it “alluring.” [3] Pach, she wrote, “is in search of significant form, eliminating all but the base essentials of his scheme.” [4]

Pach offered Casentino Mountains for sale for $180, but it failed to sell. He apparently made two versions of the painting; the one that was included in the Armory Show and reproduced in the Chicago Tribune (unlocated), and this one that remained for many years in the collection of Pach’s widow, Nikifora N. Iliopoulus. [5]

[1] Laurette E. McCarthy, “Walter Pach: Agent of Modernism,” in The Armory Show at 100: Modernism and Revolution, Marilyn Kushner and Kimberly Orcutt, eds., exh. cat. (New York: New-York Historical Society, 2013), 61, 63.

[2] Ibid., 61.

[3] The hospital was known as “Dunning.” See “Futurist Pictures—Two of Them from Dunning. Which Are Which?” Chicago Sunday Tribune, March 28, 1913; reproduced ibid., 63.

[4] Harriet Monroe, “Cubist Art a Protest Against Narrow Conservatism,” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 6, 1913, B5.

[5] McCarthy, 63.

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