DescriptionJOSEPH STELLA (American 1877-1946)
Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit, 1919
Silverpoint and crayon on paper
10-1/2 x 13-1/4 inches (26.7 x 33.7 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Joseph Stella 1919
Rabin & Krueger Gallery, Newark, NJ
Private collection, Oregon
Born in Muro Lucano, Italy, Joseph Stella emigrated to New York in 1896. His first major retrospective was mounted in 1963 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. This was the first exhibition to hang his futurist paintings alongside his works inspired by nature. Arguably, his most well-known paintings are Brooklyn Bridge, Yale University Art Museum, and the Tree of My Life, private collection, both of which were painted in 1919-1920. They exemplify the dynamic duality of technology and nature that separated Stella's works from those of the other American Modernists. Both of these iconic paintings by Stella were created during the same year as this sensitive metalpoint drawing. In fact many of the artist's tropical metalpoint drawings, like the present work, appear in the elaborate Tree of Life composition.
The present drawing is typical of Stella's virtuosity with a medium that was used widely during the Italian Renaissance. It is relentlessly sharp-edged, such that even the curvilinear shape of the petal, for example, does not undulate. Despite its hard-edged quality, silverpoint is capable of creating the gentlest tonal gradations, which in the hands of an expert draftsman like Stella yields imagery with marvelous sculptural properties.
Slight staining to edges due to old matting, otherwise overall good condition.
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