Landscape with Path

Artist: Alfred H. Maurer (1868–1932)
Verso: Landscape Sketch
Year: circa 1915
Medium: mixed media on gessoed board
Size: 21 3/8 x 17 5/8 inches (54.3 x 44.8 cm)

Weyhe Gallery, New York;
Private Collection.

Alfred H. Maurer is one of the first American Modernist painters. His father, Louis Maurer, was a successful graphic artist for Currier & Ives, and Alfred’s earliest training was in the graphic and commercial arts, through his work for the family lithographic enterprise. 

In 1897, Maurer moved to Paris to study painting and immerse himself in the city’s salon culture. In the influential years he spent in Europe, Maurer became acquainted with Gertrude Stein, who introduced him to the European modernists, including Cezanne and Matisse. By 1905 the revolutionary ideas of these artists and the Fauves inspired Maurer to abandon his earlier, more traditional, style of painting.  Maurer now used exuberant, non-naturalistic color and he rejected traditional three-dimensional space; the picture space became defined by the movement of color planes, and hiss works became color entities not simply factual representations of nature. 

In 1914, on the eve of World War I, Maurer returned permanently to New York. Starting in 1915, he spent his summers in Marlboro-on-the-Hudson, where he painted many landscapes, resuming a favorite theme from his days in France.  Landscape with Path recalls earlier works painted between in France. In these examples, Maurer expressed himself through primarily through color and often used the dominating color in a natural object, while ignoring the more minor tones; this allowed him to maintain the effect of nature while moving beyond a purely descriptive and representational landscape. These paintings are meant to evoke a sublime version of nature, rather than merely depict it. Maurer explains:

It is necessary for art to differ from nature, or we would at once lose the raison d’etre of painting. Perhaps art should be the intensification of nature; at least, it should express an inherent feeling which cannot be obtained from nature except through the process of association. 

(Elizabeth McCausland, A.H. Maurer: A Biography of America’s First Modern Painter, New York:  The Walker Art Center, 1951, p.139)

Throughout his career, Maurer incorporated knowledge of the European avant-garde into a personal and idiosyncratic means of expression.