Lot 36
  • 36

Walter Pach 1883 - 1958

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Walter Pach
  • Storm on the River
  • signed Pach and dated 1914 (lower left); also initialed, numbered and inscribed 288/For Nikifora/W.P. on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 18 1/4 by 22 1/4 inches
  • (46.4 by 56.5 cm)


Mrs. Nikifora N. Iliopoulos (the artist's wife)
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2011


New York, Montross Gallery, 1914
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, 1914
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Modern Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings 1913-1933 by Walter Pach, May 1933, no. 2
Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta Public Library; Shreveport, Louisiana, Louisiana State Exhibit Museum; Louisville, Kentucky, J.B. Speed Art Museum; Williamstown, Massachusetts, Lawrence Museum; Chattanooga, Tennessee, George Thomas Hunter Gallery; New York, Rose Fried Gallery (circulated by the American Federation of Arts) Pioneers of American Abstract Art, December 1955-January 1957, no. 27, p. 6
New York, Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, The Paintings of Walter Pach, November-December 2011, no. 11, p. 11, illustrated p. 38


Laurette E. McCarthy, Walter Pach: Watercolors, New York, 2015, p. 5, illustrated fig. 5

Catalogue Note

Though he is best known today as an art historian and champion of modern art, Walter Pach considered himself an artist as well as a writer, and he undertook both pursuits with passion for the entirety of his life. After studying under William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri at the New York School of Art, Pach moved to France in 1907 and quickly befriended Leo and Gertrude Stein, as well as the coterie of avant-garde painters and writers that surrounded these great patrons of modern art, including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Pach's work began to display the influence of these new sources, Matisse in particular, and he abandoned many aesthetic conventions such as a naturalistic approach to color. Pach also began to write in earnest while abroad, contributing important early articles in Scribner's Magazine, for example, on artists such as Paul Cézanne and Claude Monet. Indeed through his scholarship on and advocacy of modern artists, Pach played a pivotal role in introducing and disseminating these new modes of visual expression in the United States.

In 1912, Pach began working with the American painters Arthur B. Davies and Walt Kuhn in Paris to select works for the International Exhibition of Modern Art—now better known as the Armory Show. He proved vital to its success, utilizing his considerable contacts among artists, dealers and collectors to secure loans for the exhibition. Among the paintings Pach selected was Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, a picture that caused uproar among American audiences not yet exposed to avant-garde styles such as Cubism, Fauvism and Futurism. In the wake of the Armory Show, Pach’s aesthetic evolved and began to demonstrate his engagement with Cubism, the style he referred to as “the great new school of France."

Painted in 1914, Storm on the River clearly demonstrates Pach’s exploration of a cubist style of abstraction. Here he depicts a view of the East River outside the window of his Manhattan apartment, located at 33 Beekman Place between 50th and 51st Streets–the very residence where Marcel Duchamp would be his guest for several weeks after his arrival to the United States in 1915. The composition is related to three other works he created in a range of media during this period, but Storm on the River is certainly the most abstracted in the series. Pach renders the flowers in the foreground realistically but has reduced and fragmented the sky, water and tree into geometric, overlapping planes of color. These fractured shapes indicate Pach’s exploration of the movement of forms in space, further emphasized by the more painterly style of execution utilized to portray the sky and water. Indeed, the composition evokes a strong sense of motion suggesting that—although it was likely executed in his studio—this was the view as Pach saw it.

Pach returned to painting in a more realistic style in the 1920s, but it is clear he considered the work he executed in this period as his most successful, writing to fellow artist Manierre Dawson in 1913: “I am working ever so differently from what I did before; much better too, there are Cubistic things in it” (as cited in Laurette E. McCarthy, The Paintings of Walter Pach, New York, 2011, p. 10).