Most likely painted between the years of 1918 and 1920, Alfred Maurer's Fauve Landscape just skirts the abstract. Demonstrating the dual influences of Fauvism and Cubism, Maurer here creates a world in which trees, foliage, earth, and sky are still visible, while the concepts of perspective, near and far, positive and negative, have been eliminated. The result is a truly modernist landscape comprised of a wonderful servies of curvilinear shapes in bold, strong colors.
Trained at the National Academy of Design, New York, in 1884 and briefly at the Académie Julian, Paris, during 1897, Maurer received critical success early in his career with academic paintings of solitary female figures in interiors and genre scenes of café society. These early paintings reflected his classical training, as well as the influence of the work of fellow Americans James McNeill Whistler and William Merritt Chase.
For over fifteen years, from 1897 to 1915, Maurer lived and worked in Paris. A pioneer in the avant-garde revolution against traditional art, Maurer was one of the very first Americans to be influenced by Fauvism and Cubism. Leading the life of a true expatriate, Maurer participated in various independent salons, befriended the important patrons of early modern art, Gertrude and Leo Stein, and may have studied briefly with Henri Matisse. By 1907 Maurer was producing vigorously painted Fauvist landscapes which he exhibited in New York at Alfred Stieglitz's gallery, 291, in 1909 and at the Folsom Gallery in 1913.
"The years of his residence in Paris were the years in which he was reborn as a painter, yet there was never a time when he painted as a slavish imitator of anyone--even those artists he most admired. The quality that most distinguishes so much of his work--a pictorial purity that concentrates every particle of attention on the realization of what Roger fry used to call the 'aesthetic emotion'--was not something, moreover, that was new to his art after his conversion to modernism. It was already in evidence on the Whistlerian paintings that had won him his early acclaim. It clearly answered to his natural instincts as an artist. What he did discover in the innovations of Fauvism and Cubism was a more direct access to the vein of feeling that it was his penchant as a painter to pursue. Thus, for Maurer modernism never represented a leap into an alien idiom, but served, on the contrary, as a way of allowing the artist a more intimate point of entry into the emotions that he wished to see realized in his paintings." (H. Kramer, Alfred H. Maurer: The Cubist Works, New York, 1989, n.p.)
Indeed, Mauer imposed his own sense of reality on his brilliant modern landscapes such as Fauve Landscape. These works comprise an important part of his artistic output and demonstrate the emancipating effect Cubism and Fauvism had on his work. In the present gouache, Maurer has taken Fauvism's bright colors and Cubism's broken forms, and imbued them with his personal spirit to make a work that is truly his own.