Still Life and Color Field Paintings from the William S. Paley Collection

Still Life and Color Field Paintings from the William S. Paley Collection

Few collectors matched the courage and vision of William S. Paley, who championed a wide range of artists from Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau to Kenneth Noland and Josef Albers.
Few collectors matched the courage and vision of William S. Paley, who championed a wide range of artists from Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau to Kenneth Noland and Josef Albers.

Expert Voices: Simon Shaw on Still Life Paintings of the William S. Paley Collection

Expert Voices: Simon Shaw on Still Life Paintings of the William S. Paley Collection

Still life painting has always been a source of inspiration for artists and enthusiasts alike, however, perhaps no one has challenged and further progressed this artistic practice in Modern Art than Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, and Pierre Bonnard. As it just so happens, one still life work from each artist sit at the center of the William S. Paley Collection.

A symphonic array of form and pigment, Picasso’s Guitare sur une table from 1919 epitomizes the artist’s bold stylistic evolution in the years following the First World War. Drawing on the Cubist idiom pioneered alongside Braque beginning around 1907–08, Picasso’s still lifes from the subsequent decade reveal a heightened liveliness and levity paired with a dynamic and newfound appreciation of color.

Among the earliest and most harmonious of Rousseau’s rare still lifes, Vase de fleurs à la branche de lierre, première version (1901–02) embodies the essential strengths of the artist. Rendered in a shallow, stage-like expanse, Rousseau’s ornamental flowers are carefully arrayed in variegated brushstrokes befitting their forms.

A scintillating vision of the domestic everyday, Nature morte from 1939 embodies the expressive possibilities of light and color. A superlative example of Pierre Bonnard’s late still lifes, Nature morte typifies the revolutionary vitalization of still life scenes that positions Bonnard as among the greatest twentieth-century pioneers of this genre.

Expert Voices: Kelsey Leonard on Color Field Paintings of the William S. Paley Collection

Expert Voices: Kelsey Leonard on Color Field Paintings of the William S. Paley Collection

One of the last vertical stripe paintings made before Morris Louis’s death in 1962, Number 4-31 is a commanding example of an artist at the height of his production, flawlessly synthesizing color and form into a sweeping and hypnotic image. Pulsating with rich atmospheric hues, Sounds in the Summer Night is a testament to Kenneth Noland’s virtuosic exploration of color and an outstanding example from the artist’s acclaimed Target series, a body of work long recognized as one of the seminal achievements of post-war American abstraction. Rendered in exquisite gem-like hues, in the largest scale of the series, and during a seminal year of Josef Albers’s career, Homage to the Square in Green Frames is a superlative example from one of the most iconic series in all of the twentieth century.

Contemporary Art

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