Cubist bananas


This is definitely a quickie because what on earth am I going to say about this? It's called Cubist still life and it's by an artist called Alfred Henry Maurer, of whom I had never heard.


I'm not really a fan of Cubism but I have to say I quite like this for some reason. It's cool - in the sense of temperature rather than fashion - I think. It also somehow gives me the impression the banana and the other fruit - figs? - are behind glass. The colours are rather lovely. It looks like a perfect banana doesn't it? Just at that moment of perfection.


It's my today picture in my desk diary and because it's late and I am, as usual, uninspired I looked at this and thought why not? So what more can I say?


Well a bit about this unknown artist - Alfred Henry Maurer. This is a self-portrait when he was young and still hopeful. He was American born to German parents. His father was also an artist - a lithographer - and completely disapproved of his son's ventures into Modernism, which I think includes Cubism. Alfred - our artist - began his career with awards and recognition - but as a realist artist. He then went to Paris and lived there for many years where he became acquainted with the various Modernists of the time. Alas his work in this vein did not gain him much recognition - either critically or commercially, and eventually he was forced to return home to his disapproving dad. The lack of success and the fraught relationship it seems eventually led him to suicide.


Which is very sad. Nowadays he is well respected. My desk diary painting is in somebody's private collection, but he now has paintings in many of the world's great galleries. And when I look at my desk top painting I think why not?


Just to compare here are some other Cubist bananas - most by artists much more famous than he. Picasso doesn't seem to have descended to bananas. The order is random here. First up is Roy Lichtenstein's Cubist Still Life and I think my favourite - mostly because of the colours. I don't know why but it sort of reminds me of Ikea. The big one in the middle is by an artist I don't know called Gustave Duenas and is titled The Banana and the Waiter, which rather makes the waiter the same size as the banana, well almost and isn't the wine more prominent anyway?. What looks like reflections at first glance are not really are they? Then we have Juan Gris' painting which is simply called Bananas 1926, which is interesting because the bananas are really not the main part of the composition are they? Gris was one of the big name Cubists I think so we should admire. And I sort of do, but I don't quite like. And finally in the bottom left corner we have Cubist artist supreme Georges Braque and his Cinq Bananes et Deux Poires, which is just too monotone for me.

What is sort of interesting about all of them is that their bananas all look in pristine condition, and yet bananas so often are not are they? I mean you should never buy a big bunch of bananas unless you eat them all the time, or you will end up, in no time at all, with a whole lot of gone-off bananas that you don't know what to do with. There's only so much banana bread you can eat, and smoothies you can drink.


I said this would be a quickie. As a last thought I searched for more banana paintings by our desk diary artist Alfred Henry Maurer (1868-1932). And there are heaps - well 6 that I found. They are not all quite cubist, but some are cubist like. I suppose bananas themselves are sort of cubist in shape. I wonder why they fascinated him so? I rather like the last one, but not the others particularly. Maybe the one on the bottom left. And why would you add a fish to your composition - the top centre - the colour I suppose.


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