Alfred H. Maurer - An American in ParisIn 1897, a proud father put his son on the boat to Europe to study art and become a great, internationally famous artist. The father is not without a modest degree of success as an artist himself, employed by the famous lithographers, Currier and Ives. Inasmuch as art seemed to "run in the family", he has seen to it that his son has the best art training money could buy, studying at the prestigious National Academy and there developing a good eye for drawing and detail, a strong, traditional painting style, and, at the age of 29, a thirst for more and better instruction in his chosen career. The trip is not without some sacrifice for the old man. A first class round-trip passage and year in Europe cost him roughly a year's pay, but it's worth it to see his son rise to the top of their profession.
The son, Alfred H. Maurer, was born in 1868, and his trip to Europe was the highlight of his life. He gravitated toward Paris, the epicentre of art in the whole world at the time, and the best place to make a reputation for one"s self in the first decade of the brand new twentieth century. He loved it. Paris was an exciting, exotic, thrilling, amusement park of a city, brimming over with art, music, literature, drama, the opera (which combined all the above), and most of all, the avant-garde. He liked it so much he stayed past the one year his father had promised to support him. He stayed over ten years in fact. He became a regular at the salons of Leo and Gertrude Stein and there met the brilliant Henri Matisse.
Matisse had a profound effect upon him. Almost overnight Maurer jettisoned everything he'd ever learned from his father and the conservative National Academy, departing totally from realism in favour of Matisse's brand of artistic freedom with colour and design. His Woman with Blue Background, painted in 1907, near the end of his Paris sojourn, is Matisse with an American accent, strongly expressionistic, and very reminiscent of Matisse's Woman with Green Stripe painted in 1905. Having departed so completely from the image his father had of him as an artist, it's little wonder Maurer stayed in Paris ten years. Perhaps he was afraid to go home. When he did return to New York in 1909, his work found a place in the 291 gallery of Alfred Stieglitz along side that of John Marin, whose paintings were very similar to his. Together, some four years before the Armory Show of 1913 officially brought modern art to this country, they were among the first to introduce it to the elite gallery patrons of the New York art scene. One can only imagine the encounter between Maurer and his father when the old man saw what ten years of study in Paris had done to his son.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
3 July 1998