In a dark palette, Alfred Henry Maurer renders two heads in exaggerated proportions

Alfred Henry Maurer

American, 1868–1932

Cubist Twin Head, c. 1930

Oil on gessoed board

21½ x 18 inches

Signed upper right

Often acknowledged as the first American modernist painter, Alfred Henry Maurer moved through a number of stylistic phases in his career. Born in New York City, he grew up in an artistic home. At 16 Maurer joined the family printing business, and he later worked as a commercial and graphic artist while attending the National Academy of Fine Arts. In 1897 he moved to Paris and enrolled in Académie Julian. The school promoted the technical skills required of French academic art, but Maurer’s focus was on the anti-academic work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Maurer’s creative evolution continued with his exposure to the radical palette of the Fauvists and crystallized in the innovative cubist paintings he produced between 1927 and 1932.

Cubist Twin Heads reflects Maurer’s sophisticated understanding of Synthetic Cubism. The artist renders the two heads with exaggerated proportions, their necks deliberately elongated and reminiscent of works by Modigliani. While Maurer reduced his subjects to a series of intersecting lines and shapes, key facial features remain discernible. The articulation of these features through color and vigorous brushwork fuels the painting’s expressive power. Cubist Twin Heads is testimony to Maurer’s stature as one of the best American modern painters.

In a dark palette, Alfred Henry Maurer renders two heads in exaggerated proportions