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Still Life Number One with Flowers (Flowers Against Wallpaper), ca. 1915

Artist: Florine Stettheimer, American, 1871 - 1944

Medium: Oil on canvas

Painting: 36 x 26 1/8 in. (91.4 x 66.4 cm)
Frame: 40 1/2 x 30 5/8 x 2 1/2 in. (102.9 x 77.8 x 6.4 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of the Estate of Miss Ettie Stettheimer

Object Number: 60.21

On View

Ettie Stettheimer, New York, New York, 1960

In 1914, the Stettheimer sisters—Carrie, Florine, Ettie—and their mother, Rosetta Walter, established their salon in New York City after living as American expatriates in Europe for many years. Their soirees were frequented by such artists, intellectuals, and writers as Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, Virgil Thomson, Carl Van Vechten, Sherwood Anderson, and Alfred Stieglitz. Adorned with Florine’s artworks, their apartments provided a marvelous backdrop for their influential visitors, many of whom ended up as Florine’s subjects. Among her idiosyncratic paintings are portraits of Marcel Duchamp and art critic Henry McBride, images of family parties and picnics, and the fantastical series Cathedrals of: Broadway, Fifth Avenue, Wall Street, and Art (1929-1944).

 

Still Life Number One with Flowers is an early work, completed soon after her return from Europe, and before she established her signature style. Stettheimer studied European Modernism in Berlin, Munich, and Paris, and then developed her personal style, one that appeared naïve, and utilized pattern and color to produce abstract and decorative canvases. Here, the thickly painted wallpaper serves as a backdrop for the vases, which declare their three-dimensionality through the shadows they cast. The riot of bird and floral patterns, however, is difficult to disentangle as the flowers in the vases slip into the wallpaper in a typical Modernist play with illusions of space. The stems, leaves, and buds snake through the canvas, creating a skein of color across the surface that seems to throb with life.

 

Stettheimer and her work were not known widely during her lifetime. After her 1916 exhibition at M. Knoedler & Company received mixed reviews, she refused all invitations, including that of Steiglitz, for another solo display, although she participated in many group shows. She was greatly admired, however, by some of America’s most important artists and intellectuals. Upon her death, Duchamp organized a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1946 that included Still Life Number One with Flowers.