Figure and Form
On view through September 16, 2022

Henry Salem Hubbell (American, 1870-1949), The Pied Mannequin, 1917, oil on canvas
26 H. x 18 1/2 W. inches, Signed lower right: Henry Salem Hubbell
This summer, Graham Shay 1857 presents a comprehensive exhibition examining the human form in American art through sculpture, painting, and drawing. Figure and Form analyzes the artist’s interpretation of the human figure, focusing on work from the 20th century that persisted in realism and figuration amidst an art world that increasingly favored abstraction. In early America, the figure was approached with more trepidation than seen in other cultures. Victorian-era ideals gripped the nation during the 19th century, and these puritanical strictures prized modesty and propriety, placing the body in a divisive position for artists. Near the turn of the 20th century, improvements in communication and transportation widened the American artist’s perspective and challenged conservative beliefs surrounding the human form. For example, a 1917 painting by Henry Salem Hubbell titled The Pied Mannequin focuses on a young girl seated in a luxurious armchair, clothed in a sophisticated period outfit. This would have been a more traditional and acceptable representation of a figure in 19th century America, but remained a popular portrait style well into the 1900s.

Cecil de Blaquiere Howard (American, 1888-1956) Meditation, 1920
Bronze, brown patina, 20 1/4 H. x 11 1/2 W. x 16 D. inches
Signed on base: HOWARD, Stamped by foundry: cire perdue, C. VALSUANI

Stylistic choices in depicting the figure would rely less on true representation and reach towards more Modern methods as the mid century approached. Tropicalia (c. 1940) by Joseph Stella places an elongated figure in the foreground with her back to the viewer, looking out at a field of layered colors. The work is not abstract, but neither is it true to life, transforming a typical Barbadian scene into a vibrant Modernist composition.

Joseph Stella (Italian-American, 1877–1946), Tropicalia, 1940, oil on canvas
25 3/4 H. x 35 3/4 W. inches, signed lower left: Joseph Stella/1940

An artist known for her lifelike, lyrical sculptures, Harriet Frishmuth is featured in the exhibition with a fountain cast Crest of the Wave (1926), which depicts a nude female skipping atop a wave, nothing connecting her to the base besides one foot elevated in point. Female sculptors had a knack for capturing emotion and movement in their work, apparent in Malvina Hoffman’s cheeky Daboa (c. 1930), where the figure appears with a smile across her face just as Frishmuth's subject does. Daboa succeeds at communicating a sense of life; the piece celebrates the culture and living histories of West Africa's Sara people through a portrayal of movement.

Harriet Frishmuth (American, 1880-1980), Crest of the Wave Fountain, 1926
Bronze, brown and green verdigris patina, 66 H. x 16 W. x 15 D. inches, signed and dated on base: HARRIET W. FRISHMUTH Stamped on base: GORHAM CO. FOUNDERS / QFMP

The works included in this exhibition were chosen for their diverse approaches in depicting the human figure. Some subjects appear clothed while others do not, which is something viewers should take into consideration. Figure and Form seeks to expand on our understanding of the figure in American art, presenting a cohesive selection of work spanning from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s.

Charles Demuth (American, 1883 – 1935), Bathers, watercolor and pencil on paper
12 H. x 10 W. inches, signed lower left: C. Demuth
Featured artists:
George Bellows Karl Bitter Allan Clark Charles Demuth Harriet Frishmuth Henry Hering Malvina Hoffman Cecil de Blaquiere Howard Henry Salem Hubbell Harry Jackson Carl Paul Jennewein Leon Kroll Frederick W. MacMonnies Edward McCartan Francis Luis Mora Andrée Ruellan Janet Scudder Everett Shinn John Sloan Eugene Speicher Joseph Stella Benedict Tatti Max Weber Robert White Wheeler Williams William Zorach
Malvina Hoffman (American, 1887-1966), Daboa, c. 1930, bronze, dark brown patina
21 1/2 H. x 7 5/8 W. x 9 5/8 D. inches, signed and titled on base: DABOA / MALVINA HOFFMAN / ©
Inscribed on base: CELLINI BRONZE WORKS N.Y-, mounted to original wood base, 1 3/8 H. inches Overall height: 23 inches
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