Artists in 60 Seconds: Alfred Maurer

Movement, Style, School or Type of Art:

Modernism

In Maurer's case, "Modernism" describes his journey from commercial lithography, to academic painting studies (at both New York's National Academy of Design and the renowned Académie Julian in Paris), to experimenting with the avant-garde styles of Fauvism, Tonalism, Expressionism and analytical Cubism. His later works combined all of these elements into something unique and splendid (if underappreciated), and earned him the posthumous title, "Modernist."

Date and Place of Birth:

April 21, 1868, New York City

Life:

Maurer was the son of Louis Maurer, who happened to be a highly successful graphic artist for Currier and Ives. Though Alfred dutifully followed in his father's footsteps for some years, he was off to the freedom of Paris the minute he could afford to leave New York. He came into his own there, enjoying the company of fellow painters, participating in independent salons and becoming involved with new and exciting artistic movements via his association with Gertrude Stein and her circle.

Maurer's happy Parisian life ended when WWI loomed large and he retreated back to New York. Unfortunately, he was now, artistically, light years ahead of his time in the U.S. Though he continued to paint, his work was a critical failure, his earnings almost nonexistent and his support system back in Paris. Maurer became a recluse toward the end of his life, and it was only after his death that he began to be recognized as the one of the first great American Modernists.

Important Works:

  • An Arrangement, 1901
  • Two Women, ca. 1926
  • 2 Heads, 1930
  • Still-Life with Doily, 1930
  • The Head of a Man, ca. 1931

Date and Place of Death:

August 4, 1932, New York City (suicide)

How To Pronounce "Maurer":

It's "mower," like "shower" or "flower."

A Quote From Alfred Maurer:

  • "The transition from the old school to the new is not an easy one ... When I decided to make the change, I had to lay aside my brushes for almost a month and think nothing but Impressionism. Then I went at it slowly and timidly, feeling my way. I am still in transition, I know. I can’t tell what tomorrow will bring about." - Alfred Maurer, quoted in a 1908 New York Times article

    Further Reading

    • Deeds, Daphne Anderson. Alfred Maurer: The First American Modern.
      Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 2003 .

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