Nature Morte, circa 1929
Signed JMetzinger with conjoined initials (lr); inscribed W. Brewster and numbered 48.556 on pieces of the original stretcher
Oil on canvas
23 3/4 x 32 inches (60.3 x 81.3 cm)
Galerie L'Effort Moderne [Leonce Rosenberg], Paris, inscribed with remnants of a number 9028... on the gallery label
Sale: Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, May 31, 1972, lot 114, illus. and illus. on cover of catalogue
A good example of the "mechanical" style of Cubism that flourished during the 1920s is Jean Metzinger's Nature Morte (Still Life), painted around 1929. Here we can see the bright colors and flat planes so characteristic of Synthetic Cubism, but instead of building up a single image from smaller pieces, this work presents a group of discreet objects. Some of these are quintessentially mechanical: a wrench, a pair of pliers, a freestanding dial. Others are indirectly so: solid geometrical forms that appear to have been cut from sheet metal. These mechanistic pieces are shown with flowers, which at first seem to be an organic counterpoint to the tools and metallic shapes. Upon closer examination, however, they too have a mechanical appearance, as if bolted together from machined parts and coated with industrial paint. At the right, the bust of a woman, tinted in the same dark blue as the background, appears to be gazing impassively past this array. Like the flowers, the bust seems die-cut and spray painted, another product of 20th-century industry. The viewer of this beautiful but enigmatic work is led to contemplate whether we are all, like this metallic woman, parts of the great machine of modern society, stamped out and colored by the hidden processes of contemporary life.
C Estate of Elsie Adler
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