Joseph Kleitsch painted this beautiful, yet tightly rendered still life in Mexico City in 1911, during the turbulent times just prior to the Mexican revolution. The Hungarian born artist felt the insecurity and danger of the environment in Mexico and hurriedly returned to the United States. This painting is a reflection of the uncertainty of life in Mexico City, as symbolized by the empty six-shooter on the table. A pair of aces with a king high may or may not have been the winning hand as the money is still on the table. The carafe of wine and a smoking cigar suggest that this card game may have been suddenly interrupted, with the winner forced to leave his winnings behind. The artist thoughtfully arranged all of these elements to arouse in our imagination intrigue, mystery and adventure. Kleitsch was a consummate artistic explorer, constantly searching for new means of expression. His restless talents and perennial dissatisfaction were fed by an adventurous, bombastic, and charismatic personality.
We appreciate Dr. Patricia Trenton's, guest curator for the Irvine Museum's Joseph Kleitsch project, contribution to this essay.