Charles Biederman

American, 1906-2004

Untitled, 1936

Oil on canvas

59 x 41 inches

Signed and dated upper left

Charles Biederman was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1906. He studied at the Cleveland Art Institute before enrolling at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Biederman was talented, receiving the prestigious Paul Trebeilcock Prize, but he dropped out of school in 1929 due to ideological differences with the faculty. Biederman spent formative years working in Chicago, New York and Paris, encountering and befriending leading abstract and Cubist artists of the time, such as Piet Mondrian, Constantin Brancusi, Hans Arp, Joan Miró and Fernand Léger.

Biederman spent two intense years in New York City from September 1934 to September 1936, during which time the present work was completed. Working out of a studio in Washington Square, Biederman was inspired by the city and the art scene around him. Biederman made use of the most notable artistic resource of the neighborhood, Albert E. Gallatin’s Museum of Living Art. Installed in the reading room of the New York University’s downtown campus, this groundbreaking collection of the latest in modern art featured important works by Léger, Miró, and Mondrian. Biederman also met the “Park Avenue Cubists” George L.K. Morris, Suzy Frelinghuysen, and Charles Green Shaw, a group whose works reflected the tenets of Abstraction and Cubism.

The present work perfectly illustrates Biederman’s artistic philosophy that he developed in New York during the 1930s, showing direct influence to European models while also demonstrating a unique style. The large composition lacks narrative or recognizable imagery, and instead explores abstract form, color, and space. Biomorphic shapes and flat, ribbon-like lines are painted to emphasize the vertical format of the canvas. The sinuous linear objects are rendered with depth and volume, in a style that evokes early Surrealist paintings of Picasso and the high-polish finish of Léger. The influence of Miró is also evident in the floating organic objects set against the radiant and saturated background of blue and black paint. Biederman also found inspiration in his American contemporaries; the relationship between the forms on the canvas mirrors the balancing and floating effects of Alexander Calder’s three-dimensional standing mobiles from the early 1930s.

The large composition lacks narrative or recognizable imagery, and instead explores abstract form, color, and space in blue, and dark green and black shapes