This cubist work by Max Weber uses a subdued palette of blues and grays along with mauves and yellows to construct a portrait.

Max Weber

American, 1881–1961

Abstraction, 1917

Gouache on paper

18⅞ x 11½ inches

Signed lower left

One of the foundational figures in American cubism, Weber studied at the Pratt Institute in New York before traveling to Paris to study, absorb, and participate in the latest artistic developments in the circles of Picasso, Matisse, Henri Rousseau, and Gertrude Stein. Returning to New York in 1909, he spent the following decade applying to his own art the radical lessons and experimentation he witnessed in Paris.

Abstraction is a major work on paper from his “cubist decade.” Here Weber uses a subdued palette of blues and grays along with mauves and yellows to construct a portrait. Recognizable elements—red lips, a chin, an ear—float among geometric shapes of cones and trapezoids. The artist’s use of gouache conveys a softness not seen in his oils and Manhattan cityscapes of the period. However, Weber succeeds in portraying a dynamic yet balanced composition typical of his best cubist works.

This cubist work by Max Weber uses a subdued palette of blues and grays along with mauves and yellows to construct a portrait.