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Return to the Human Figure
By 1917 Weber was seeking a more humanistic voice than he felt abstract painting could provide. His figures became less fractured and were often integrated with scenes from daily life. In virtually all of his woodcuts and linocuts, Weber cultivated unique images through accident, invention, and variation. Evidence of this can be seen in three versions of Crouching Nude (1919/1920). The impression printed in brown reveals the elegant cutting of the block and the carefully established equilibrium between dark and light spaces. A second impression retains brown in the background but highlights the figure in pale tan; fingerprints at the shoulder reveal the artist's application of color with his fingers. A third version employs a redder background without border tone along the top and upper sides. Marks in areas adjacent to the hair line are printed from the block without being carved into the wood, an unusual technique for American printmaking at this time.
Crouching Nude was printed from one of approximately twenty-five wood blocks that Weber cut in the winter of 1919 - 1920 using basswood recycled from a gift box of honeycomb. The format of the original package can be seen in some images--the dovetailed corners in Seated Figure (1919/1920), or the castellated pattern of the box's joints at the base of Head of a Man. These prints unite Cézanne's grasp of form with the masklike heads and totems of African art and reveal Weber's profound understanding of both. Universal themes such as motherhood and the nude dominate the series. With the death of his father in 1917, Weber turned inward toward his spiritual and cultural heritage and became one of the few American moderns to adopt religious subject matter; Rabbi (1920) reflects this new territory. By the early 1930s, printmaking played a diminishing role in his work, and his later pictures explored the figure, landscape, and still life in expressive canvases that continued to be experimental and adventurous while avoiding the fully abstract.
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