Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977) was an American surrealist artist, whose works denoted sparsely furnished interiors, barren landscapes, self-portraits, and still-lifes. Based in Chicago, she was known as the ‘Queen of the Bohemian artists”. Abercrombie was involved in the Chicago jazz scene and was friends with musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughan, whose music inspired her own creative work (Warren, Lynn, Art in Chicago 1945-1995, Thames & Hudson, 1996)
It should be noted that Abercrombie was a fan of René François Ghislain Magritte, on whom I will likely do a piece in the coming weeks. Let us now look at Coming Home (below).
Getrude herself was a tall woman who considered herself ugly and witch like. She would frequently accentuate her tallness by wearing a wide brimmed velvet hat and would delight in people recoiling in horror at her (Weininger and Smith 1991, p. 19.). She admitted that the women in her paintings are invariably the artist herself. Coming Home is an eery piece. Every detail of it is quite eery in fact. Observe the diamond shaped clouds, the three pointed roof peals, the dilapidated state of the paint around the house. The windows seem grubby also. I also love the creepy twisting tree at the left of the painting. All of these details add up to a wonderfully creepy painting about what seems to be a witch coming back to her far away home. Where is she coming from? What is in her red briefcase? Why are the ground floor windows so long?
By the 1940s, Abercrombie had developed a lexicon of motifs with cryptically autobiographical significance that would recur in her paintings throughout the rest of her career: shells, eggs, black cats, doors, bowls of fruit, Victorian furniture, moonlit landscapes. In Untitled (Blue Screen, Black Cat, Print of Same),1945, a blue folding screen and a black cat stand in a nearly empty room; the scene is doubled in the painting-within-a-painting hanging on the room’s wall, resulting in a bizarre mise en abyme. ArtNews
This piece was came to my attention following a major Art Forgery ring bust by the FBI recently. DB Henkels’ home was raided and numerous suspected forgeries were found, including this marvellous piece by George Copeland Ault titled Morning In Brooklyn 1929. I just wanted to bring this to your attention because I find it absolutely wonderful. Ault was a Precisionist painter, like his contemporaries Charles Sheeler and Ralston Crawford (the latter’s work was also forged in the FBI bust). I love everything about this painting. I love the sharp angles, the half shut windows, the gorgeous motor, the changing height and colours of the buildings – this is a throughly joyous painting. Look at the sky detail also!
In summation, I hope these two paintings have brought you some small joy. They are perhaps simpler and less detail than the impressionist masterpieces of the late 19th century which I review more frequently but these are no less enjoyable. I am experiencing a sort of modern art explosion of late and am grateful to be able to share this with you, dear readers.