Mexican Dance

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Mexican Dance

United States, by 1949
Drawings
Watercolor, tempera and ink
Sheet: 28 15/16 × 21 15/16 in. (73.5 × 55.72 cm) Image: 28 15/16 × 21 15/16 in. (73.5 × 55.72 cm)
The California Watercolor Society Collection of Watercolor Paintings (55.34.10)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

De Erdely encouraged his students to develop their awareness of anatomy, and in his own work his extensive knowledge of the human form is apparent....
De Erdely encouraged his students to develop their awareness of anatomy, and in his own work his extensive knowledge of the human form is apparent. He had studied anatomy and performed dissections, and his brief career as a professional boxer undoubtedly increased his awareness of the human body. De Erdely always drew his figures as well formed and substantial, and often in mature drawings, as in Mexican Dance, he made sculptural masses of the figures, breaking up the head, limbs, and torso into massive, blocklike forms with faceted surfaces. De Erdely constructed Mexican Dance as a drawing, modeling the figures with a heavy black line and applying an overlay of pale washes of naturalistic pink, aqua, and yellow. Among de Erdely’s favorite subjects in his late years were Mexicans and Spaniards dressed in folk costumes. He often depicted dancers-at rest and in motion-and typically focused on one or two individuals. In Mexican Dance the couple’s gestures suggest that they are performing a folk dance, and yet their poses appear somewhat contrived. This composed quality, commented on when the watercolor was first exhibited, may be merely decorative. It also may have derived from de Erdely’s preference for studying one model at a time rather than the ensemble of figures and his wish to describe the individual’s solitary alienation.
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Label

Technique and the Modern American Watercolor, October 3, 2001-January 23, 2002 ...
Technique and the Modern American Watercolor, October 3, 2001-January 23, 2002 Mexican Dance is painted primarily with gouache, watercolor made opaque by the addition of a white pigment based on zinc oxide. De Erdely frames the dancing couple, first drawn in ink, with a faceted background of light colors painted over dark ones, a technique that cannot be accomplished with watercolor. The pastel, opaque colors contrast with radiant areas of orange watercolor, especially on the woman’s face and the figures’ hands. These translucent areas are accentuated further with flecks of darker tone. Created by a brush dabbed with dry, dark color dragged lightly across the surface of the paper so that only the raised areas of the paper picked up the pigment, these surface details create subtle depth and variety in the skin and costumes of these monumental figures.
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Bibliography

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