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Suzy Frelinghuysen (1911-1988)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection
Suzy Frelinghuysen (1911-1988)

Composition

Details
Suzy Frelinghuysen (1911-1988)
Composition
signed and dated 'Suzy Frelinghuysen. 1943.' and inscribed with title (on the frame)
oil and collage on board
40 x 30 in. (101.6 cm. x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1943.
Provenance
Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York.
Mrs. Charles H. Russel, New York.
Estate of the above.
[With]Washburn Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 1977.
Literature
G. Bazin, ed., Histoire de la Peinture Classique et la Peinture Moderne, Paris, France, 1950, p. 606.
Exhibited
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Sixth Annual Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by Members of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, September 18-October 5, 1946, no. 14.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art; San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America, 1927-1944, October 29, 1983-September 9, 1984, pp. 80, 108, no. 48, illustrated.
St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Art Museum; Honolulu, Hawaii, Honolulu Academy of Arts; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, The Ebsworth Collection: American Modernism 1911-1947, November 20, 1987-June 5, 1988, pp. 12, 39, 94-95, 204-05, no. 25, illustrated.
Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College Museum of Art; Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University, Art Museum; Chattanooga, Tennessee, Hunter Museum of Art, Suzy Frelinghuysen & George L.K. Morris, American Abstract Artists: Aspects of Their Work and Collection, June 6, 1992-April 11, 1993, pp. 31-33, 61, fig. 4, no. 4, illustrated.
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, March 5-November 12, 2000, pp. 99-101, 282, no. 19, illustrated.
New York, Grey Art Gallery; Andover, Massachusetts, Phillips Academy, Addison Gallery of American Art; Gainesville, Florida, University of Florida, Harn Museum of Art, The Park Avenue Cubists: Gallatin, Morris, Frelinghuysen and Shaw, January 14-November 30, 2003, pp. 66, 94, pl. xiii, illustrated.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

We would like to thank Kinney Frelinghuysen for his assistance with cataloguing this lot.

Born into a prominent New Jersey family, Suzy Frelinghuysen would find success as both a painter and an opera singer. Her interest in abstract art blossomed in 1935 when she married renowned painter, collector and critic George L.K. Morris. By 1937, Frelinghuysen was elected a member of the American Abstract Artists, and she was regularly exhibiting her works in New York alongside her husband and the other so-called “Park Avenue Cubists,” Albert Gallatin and Charles Green Shaw, who were also working in the abstract idiom.

The present work, while at first appearing wholly abstract, actually relates to an image of a bullfighter. As Allison Unruh has written, the subject may have been inspired by Juan Gris’s Harlequin sculpture of 1917 (Philadelphia Museum of Art), which depicts a similar cubist exploration of a theatrical figure and was at the time in the collection of Frelinghuysen’s friend Gallatin. The figural depiction is more clearly seen in Frelinghuysen’s related work Man in Café (1944, Grey Art Gallery, New York University) as well as an earlier painting Composition—Toreador Drinking (1942, Philadelphia Museum of Art). Isabelle Dervaux writes of the development of the design, “Although [Composition] presents a higher degree of abstraction, its composition clearly derives from the earlier one. The broad white plane in the upper center corresponds to the head of the toreador, and the semicircles on either side, to his hat. The white, cone-shaped wine glass is also recognizable at the lower right. The substitution of the newspaper clippings and their fanciful typography with the regular horizontal stripes of corrugated cardboard gives the 1943 painting a more severe appearance. Yet the austerity of the rigorous geometric composition is relieved by the sensuousness of the paint handling and the soft shimmering effect of the white, feathery strokes on the blue-gray background. Although the composition is inspired by the flat, spare designs of synthetic cubism, the free handling of paint in short, visible brushstrokes and the narrow chromatic range of the painting are reminiscent of the high analytic cubism of Braque and Picasso in 1910-1912, examples of which were in Morris’ collection” (I. Dervaux, Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 99).

Composition is also significant for its incorporation of an unusual collage element into the dynamic Cubist arrangement. While collage was a common practice of the Cubists, here Frelinghuysen uniquely utilizes corrugated cardboard to further blur the lines between representation and abstraction, and two- and three-dimensional art. The manufactured material provides a key juxtaposition for the painterly brushwork in much of the composition. Yet, by painting lines on top of the striped grooves of the board, she confuses the distinction between artistic modeling and true spatial arrangement. As a result, Composition strikingly demonstrates how, “Frelinghuysen worked within the pre-established forms of Cubist visual vocabulary but deployed these elements in a unique way that asserted her own artistic identity” (A. Unruh, “Suzy Frelinghuysen: Works,” The Park Avenue Cubists: Gallatin, Morris, Frelinghuysen and Shaw, exh. cat., New York, 2002, p. 67).

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