After a few years of formative study in New York, Patrick Henry Bruce relocated to Paris in 1903, where he remained for over 30 years. Through Gertrude and Leo Stein, the famous American collectors living in Paris, he met
The canvas is one of 25 related still-life paintings Bruce created from 1917 through 1930, all inspired by objects in his Paris apartment. Emerging from the collage-like combinations of broad, flat areas of color is a horizontal plane abstracted from one of the artist’s four antique tables. On the table appear drinking glasses, mortars and pestles from the artist’s collection of African artifacts, draftsman’s tools, and wooden moldings and magnets used to secure drawings to a table or wall.
Peinture/Nature Morte is one of 25 related still-life paintings that Patrick Henry Bruce created in his Paris apartment from 1917 through 1930
This entry is a revised version of text that was originally published in Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945, ed. Sarah Cash (Washington, DC, 2011).
William C. Agee and Barbara Rose, Patrick Henry Bruce, American Modernist: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York and Houston, 1979), 30.
A Virginia-born descendant of the Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry, Bruce trained in New York with
Bruce’s initial artistic explorations in Paris led him to the Musée du Louvre to study the old masters. Like his contemporaries who had studied with Chase, he honed his skills by copying portraits in the Louvre’s galleries, and his first exhibited works in Paris were full-length portraits inspired by these studies.
William C. Agee, “Patrick Henry Bruce: A Major American Artist of Early Modernism,” Arts in Virginia 17, no. 3 (Spring 1977): 14.
Although Bruce’s career began with great promise and focus, his professional and personal stability unraveled over time. During the 1920s, when he painted Peinture/Nature Morte, he increasingly isolated himself. He wrote, “I am doing all my traveling in the apartment on ten canvases. One visits many unknown countries that way.”
Bruce to Henri-Pierre Roché, March 17, 1928, quoted in William C. Agee, “Patrick Henry Bruce: A Major American Artist of Early Modernism,” Arts in Virginia 17, no. 3 (Spring 1977): 26.
William C. Agee, “Patrick Henry Bruce: A Major American Artist of Early Modernism,” Arts in Virginia 17, no. 3 (Spring 1977).
The serial approach that Bruce used when making Peinture/Nature Morte and the related still lifes was part of a larger trend in modernist painting, but it likely also reveals a more private process of personal searching. Given the difficulties Bruce was facing when he painted Peinture/Nature Morte, perhaps the series indicates the influence of his contemporaries and immediate predecessors, including Cézanne and
William C. Agee and Barbara Rose, Patrick Henry Bruce, American Modernist: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York, 1979), 35–36.
September 29, 2016
Collection of the artist [1881-1936], Paris; left 1933 by the artist in the possession of Henri-Pierre Roché [1879-1959], Paris; by inheritance to Mme Henri-Pierre Roché, Paris; on consignment from March 1966 with (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); acquired 1967 by (Noah Goldowsky Gallery, New York); purchased 23 January 1968 by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- Noah Goldowsky Gallery, New York, 1967, as Formes.
- Corcoran [The American Genius]. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1976, unnumbered catalogue, as Forms.
- The Modern Spirit: American Painting 1908-1935, Scottish Royal Academy, Edinburgh; Hayward Galery, London, 1977, no. 65, as Forms.
- Patrick Henry Bruce: American Modernist, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 1979-1980, unnumbered catalogue.
- La Pintura de los Estados Unidos de museos de la ciudad de Washington [Painting in the United States from Public Collections in Washington], Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 1980-1981, no. 47, repro.
- Henri's Circle, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 20 April-16 June 1985, unnumbered checklist.
- Encouraging American Genius: Master Paintings from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 2005-2007, no. 85.
- The American Evolution: A History through Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2008, unpublished checklist.
- American Paintings from the Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 6 June-18 October 2009, unpublished checklist.
- American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
- Seuphor, Michel. "Peintures Construites." L'Oeil 58 (October 1959): 37, repro.
- Wolf, Tom M. "Patrick Henry Bruce." Marsyas 15 (1970-1971): 82, fig. 12, as Multiple Shapes.
- Hunter, Sam. American Art of the 20th Century. New York, 1972: 86, repro., as Forms.
- Phillips, Dorothy W. A Catalogue of the Collection of American Paintings in the Corcoran Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, D.C., 1973: 2:cover, 108, repro., 109, as Forms.
- Cook, Kenneth H. "Patrick Henry Bruce." News and Records (South Boston, VA) (31 October 1974): D:1-3, as Forms.
- Agee, William. "Patrick Henry Bruce: A Major American Artist of Early Modernism." Arts in Virginia 17, no. 3 (Spring 1977): 27, repro.
- Agee, William C., and Barbara Rose. Patrick Henry Bruce, American Modernist: A Catalogue Raisonné. New York, 1979: no. D18, 30, 31, 32 fig. 17, 36, fig. 28, 204-205, repro. 205.
- Brown, Milton, et al. American Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Decorative Arts, and Photography. New York, 1979: 383, repro., as Forms.
- Davidson, Abraham A. Early American Modernist Painting, 1910-1935. New York, 1981: 288, repro., 289.
- Brown, Milton W. One Hundred Masterpieces of American Painting from Public Collections in Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C., 1982: 144, 145, repro.
- Addison Gallery of American Art Sixty-five Years: A Selective Catalogue. Andover, Massachusetts., 1996: 338 n. 2.
- Cash, Sarah, and Terrie Sultan. American Treasures of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. New York, 2000: 183, repro.
- Weiss, Jeffrey. "Patrick Henry Bruce, Peinture/Nature Morte (Forms No. 5)." In Bruce Robertson, Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle. Washington, D.C., 2000: 58, repro.
- Agee, William C. "New Perspectives: Stanton Macdonald-Wright in the Twentieth Century." In Will South, Color, Myth and Music: Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Synchromism. Exh.cat. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 2001: 6, repro.
- Moss, Dorothy. "Peinture/Nature Morte." In A Capital Collection: Masterworks from the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Edited by Eleanor Heartney. London, 2002: 234-235, repro.
- Moss, Dorothy. "Patrick Henry Bruce, Peinture/Nature Morte." In Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945. Edited by Sarah Cash. Washington, 2011: 234-235, 281, repro.
The painting is executed on a plain-weave, medium-weight canvas. The original tacking margins have not been retained, but the pronounced cusping toward the edges of the canvas probably indicates that the painting is very close to its original dimensions. The ground is a thin, smooth white layer that was probably applied by the artist. Although this is not certain, the strong cusping on the left side and the fact that the ground has been abraded by the artist strongly support this conjecture. The deliberately abraded white ground remains visible in a number of areas. The colored zones that make up the composition show a mostly smooth but slightly ridged texture, as if they were slathered on thickly with a palette knife. Some areas—such as the lavender section in the bottom right and the darker purple cylinder at the bottom left—have a much bumpier texture, perhaps indicating that they contain dried pieces of paint or had begun to harden when they were worked with the palette knife. In general, the sharp edges and geometric precision of the thickly applied colored zones strongly hint that they were painted with the aid of stencils or masking tape.
Pencil lines are visible in many places and seem to have served two purposes. Some lines, such as the arcs in the small circle at the bottom left, appear to represent the artist working out his composition; these may be more visible than they once were. In their 1979 catalogue raisonné, William C. Agee and Barbara Rose reproduce an early photograph of this painting showing pencil lines that are no longer visible.
William C. Agee and Barbara Rose, Patrick Henry Bruce, American Modernist: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York, 1979), 32.
William C. Agee and Barbara Rose, Patrick Henry Bruce, American Modernist: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York, 1979), 192–193.
The infrared examination was conducted using a Santa Barbara Focalplane InSb camera fitted with a K astronomy filter.
Lance Mayer prepared a comprehensive technical summary for Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945, ed. Sarah Cash (Washington, DC, 2011). A copy of this summary is available in NGA conservation files.