National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Max Weber's Modern Vision

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New York
Weber found New York transforming itself into an industrial metropolis; the city's artistic milieu, however, was conservative in comparison to that of Paris. In New York, a group of artists called "The Eight"--among them, Robert Henri (1865 - 1929), Arthur B. Davies (1862 - 1928), and John Sloan (1871 - 1951)--were considered radical simply for depicting the banalities of daily life. Weber's paintings, with their brash color and stylized forms, were virtually incomprehensible to critics and the public. It is no wonder that Weber's exhibitions at the Haas, Murray Hill, and 291 galleries met with derision, as did his show at the Newark Museum. However, through these exhibitions Weber gained the support of some of the most forward-looking American artists and intellectuals of his day, such as Stieglitz and the painter/connoisseur Arthur B. Davies.

Weber's investigative spirit is evident in Crouching Nude Figure (1910/1911), one of his earliest prints. The artist trans formed the humblest material--here, a scrap of discarded linoleum--into a work of subtlety and strength by cutting lines into the soft block with a pen knife.To print, Weber rubbed ink over the linoleum surface, then overlaid paper, placed a book on top, and stood on it to obtain the pressure necessary to transfer ink to paper. While seemingly casual, the effects are calculated. The uneven application of ink contrasts with the hard-edged lines, and the diaphanous, buff paper adds warmth. The choice of papers is important to many of Weber's prints; a woodcut, Head of a Man (1919/1920), is printed on gray mica paper. Stylistically, Crouching Nude Figure shows the influence of Japanese prints in its expressive contours and carefully balanced composition. The influence of African sculpture appears in the figure's elongated forms and masklike features. The flat, sectioned elements anticipate Weber's cubist phase.

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