Oil on linen mounted to gessoed board
30 x 20 inches
Erhard Weyhe Gallery, New York
William and Mary Lincer, New York
Thence by descent to private collection, New York
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Pioneers of Modern Art in America , 1946
New York, College Art Association, no. 55-2(?)
Note: An inscription on the reverse of the board reads, “Baker 2457-A.”
Alfred Henry Maurer was born in New York, the son of Louis Maurer, who was a commercial artist for Currier & Ives. Growing up, the younger Maurer worked with his father and was trained in commercial art. In 1884, he enrolled in the National Academy of Design and in 1897 left for Paris, where he studied briefly at the Academie Julian. He stayed in Paris until the beginning of World War I in 1914. During Maurer’s time in Paris, he was drawn to the works of Dutch painter Franz Hals and the Spanish painter Diego Velasquez, and was influenced by American artists John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler. Above all, he favored the Tonalist style for his own work.
By 1900, Maurer had mastered the prevailing style of the academies and salons, winning medals and fame for his accomplishments in naturalist painting. He won first prize at the Carnegie International Exhibition in 1901 for An Arrangement , which he painted in the rich, impressionist, tonal style of Whistler.
However, Maurer became wary of stagnating in a conventional style and chose to change his stylistic direction. Between 1905 and 1907, influenced by his friendship with expatriates and avant-garde adherents Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as Henri Matisse and Paul Cezanne, Maurer moved away from Tonalism to Fauvism, and for this reason some have called him the first Modernist American painter.
Paintings from Maurer’s girl series, in which Two Girls may be grouped, became increasingly abstracted and represent the artist’s constant devotion to experimenting with various techniques and media. Like Amedeo Modigliani, Maurer painted his figures with exaggerated proportions reminiscent of the Mannerists’ stylized images of the Madonna. As in Two Girls , his subjects’ features are elongated and the facial planes are flattened and overstated. Of Maurer’s girls, writer Sherwood Anderson stated, “These paintings are … plucked out of the life of modern cities. The young girls are like desert flowers, flashing into quick beauty just caught” (Qtd. in Elizabeth McCauseland, A.H. Maurer (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1949), p. 17).