Seated Figure

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Seated Figure

United States, before 1924
Paintings
Oil on canvas
48 1/8 x 33 15/16 in. (122.24 x 86.2 cm)
Gift of Cora Eshman (38.9.1)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

In the 1920s Karfiol’s art became more classical as he focused on standing nudes, odalisques, and females dressed in loose gowns of indefinite period....
In the 1920s Karfiol’s art became more classical as he focused on standing nudes, odalisques, and females dressed in loose gowns of indefinite period. Along with his classicism went a modernist interest in color and form, which was inspired in part by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The woman in Seated Figure is fully modeled, as would be expected of an academically trained artist such as Karfiol, but her body has been simplified into solid geometric forms. She is placed in the center of the composition, sitting on a stool. The stool is actually too small and low to enable the woman, who is quite massive, to sit comfortably. She appears to be comfortable, however, because her pose gives the form of a pyramid, producing an effect of stability. She appears almost stonelike due to the monochromatic beige and white palette. Only by subtly varying the tones of pink, yellow, and brown for the flesh did Karfiol suggest that the figure was alive. When Seated Figure was exhibited in 1925-26 at the First Pan-American Exhibition of Oil Paintings in Los Angeles, where it was awarded an honorable mention, it hung next to Parthenope by JOHN CARROLL (LACMA; q.v). The two paintings reflect the interest in classicism prevalent during the decade among artists who wished to synthesize figure painting and modernist abstract concerns. Karfiol’s manipulation of the formal elements of his painting appears less extreme than does Carroll’s. The art critic Antony Anderson noted that Seated Figure followed "the Hellenic ideal in pose, arrangement of drapery, and in feeling."
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About The Era

The early twentieth century witnessed the transformation of the United States into a modern industrialized society and an international political power.

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The early twentieth century witnessed the transformation of the United States into a modern industrialized society and an international political power. By 1920 more than half of the country’s population lived in urban areas. Seeming to guarantee employment, the cities lured many farmers and African Americans from rural areas. In addition, between 1900 and 1920, 14.5 million immigrants from Europe, Russia, Mexico, and Asia settled here, primarily in urban centers. A new energy was channeled to such cities as New York and Chicago, as massive skyscrapers were erected to furnish much-needed office space and living quarters. Even West Coast cities were affected—the population of Los Angeles tripled between 1900 and 1910; its unplanned urban sprawl and dizzying speed were captured in the zany movies of the Keystone Cops, filmed on the streets of the city.


Art reflected these changing social and economic dynamics. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism were still popular. Yet other, more progressive ideas now challenged artists. A strong new commitment to realism emerged in literature and the fine arts.


In Philadelphia and New York, a group of artists centered around Robert Henri captured the vitality of urban American life. These realists depicted the hustle and bustle of city streets, the common pleasures of restaurants and various forms of entertainment. Critics dubbed these realists the “Ash Can School” because of their treatment of unidealized subject matter previously considered unattractive. These artists focused on the inhabitants of cities rather than the cities themselves. Their interest in people also led them to create a significant number of single-figure paintings, conveying the human side of the new America . During the 1910s and 1920s the realist celebration of America spread throughout the country, as artists recorded the neighborhoods and people that made their own cities distinct.

 
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.