Self-Portrait with Paradise Birds (Self-Portrait in Front of Chinese Screen), 1967
This exhibit provides a fine introduction to the charming work of Florine Stettheimer who may seem to us that she is just now is receiving her due. Yet the works on exhibit here come from many esteemed collections of universities (Columbia in particular) and museums. To many this show will be a revelation and a much-needed respite from the macho New York Art Scene that to this day is still largely defined by the predominance of male artists. Integral to the New York avant garde arts scene in the years following the 1913 Armory Show, Stettheimer was intimate with Marcel Duchamp (whose portrait is a gem of the show) at the most seminal time of the introduction of Modern Art to America.
Florine was privileged and therefore was able to pursue her passion for painting without any problems with the rent that so many artists succumb to in this most expensive of cities. There is a lightness and airiness about her work much in the spirit of the oft-quoted Matisse dictum to make art that could be for every mental worker: for the businessman as well as the man of letters. A soothing, calming influence on the mind. Paintings that would suit a businessman, a scholar and a worker at the end of their long days is not a bad thing in and of itself; decorative is often dismissed as merely decorative and these paintings are surely not.
This is not to say that Stettheimer’s paintings are not tough; these painting are tough in a
very delicate way. The pigment is generously applied with a self-assured skill.
Many of Florine’s paintings reflect and evince the luxe, calm and voluptuous lifestyle that her privilege afforded her. In a prescient manner, the images conjure and may also reflect our current neo-gilded age. Spoiler alert: the Nude Self-Portrait included in the exhibit is an eye-opener!
Beauty Contest: To the Memory of P.T. Barnum, 1924
Florence Stettheimer: Painting Poetry
May 5-Sept 24, 2017
The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY 10128
Photos courtesy The Jewish Museum