John Bradley Storrs
Untitled (Abstraction in White), 1934–36
Oil and charcoal on canvas
56 by 43½ inches
Signed Storrs lower right
John Bradley Storrs earned his reputation as a sculptor inspired by the modern architecture of his native Chicago. In addition to his representations of the city in metal and stone, Storrs was commissioned to design decorative elements for a number of major building projects in Chicago and Europe. With the Depression he increasingly turned to painting, a less costly medium in which he was also highly skilled.
A photograph of Storrs’s studio from this period shows Untitled (Abstraction in White) on an easel among several studies for sculpture commissions. The painting clearly references Storrs’s sculptures. While the forms in this painting are essentially organic and amorphous, the small angular areas reflect the formal decoration Storrs used in his sculptures. The arrow motif — inspired both by architecture and cultural artifacts, especially the patterned beading on Native American clothing — is repeated in both the painting and the sculptures to entirely different effect. The hard-lined angularity of his stone works gives way here to rounded abstract forms that foreshadow the surrealist mode Storrs employed from the mid-1930s forward.