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Alfred Maurer Still Life with Red Vase 71.35 21 X 17.jpg

Alfred Maurer • American: 1968-1932

Still Life With Red VaseGouache - Paperboard 29” x 25-1/2”

Paris, 1906. On a hot, humid August day, in a salon only blocks from the meandering Seine, a 38 year-old American artist met the great French modernist, Matisse. Until then, Alfred Maurer had painted in an “acceptable” style, often compared with great realist portrait masters John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer. Maurer had lived a charmed life for 38 years. He was successful. He was in Paris. He was handsome. And, he was on the verge of convincing a demanding father that his son was, indeed, an artist of style and note … just like his father.

Then the world turned from North to South. Alfred Maurer, handsome bon vivant of the Paris art scene, but a shy momma’s boy in his native New York, discovered modern art in all its bold, colorful, curious beauty. Matisse, along with Maurer’s friends Leo and Gertrude Stein, guided his path into a new world.

Gone was his commercial popularity. Vanished was any chance of earning his father’s favor. Remaining was a sense of artistic fulfillment in the magical “City of Lights.” This was enough until World War I chased Maurer home to New York.

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Ripped away from Paris, Maurer moved into his father’s home. Soon his beloved mother died, leaving him alone with a hectoring father who hated modern art. Maurer must have been accustomed to living on the edge, but torn from his moorings, he began a descent that ended with his tragic suicide in 1932.

Today, Maurer is considered a pioneer of modern art in America. But, turn the clock back to that fateful summer day in 1906. Alfred Maurer stood on a knife-sharp precipice. Fall to one side and he would continue painting in a popular style that had brought him acclaim and material wealth. Fall to the other side and he would incur his father’s wrath, lose his audience and his financial support, be attacked by angry critics, but eventually be celebrated after death.

Art changed and so did Maurer. But, for some people, change doesn’t always end well.

To understand Alfred Maurer, read about the Neo-Impressionist movement of his formative years, as well as the Fauvists, Cubists and Expressionists that guided his later work.

Canton Museum of Art Permanent Collection • Gift of Ralph L. Wilson 71.35


4 Ways to Sound Smart When Viewing at The Canton Museum of Art

“Maurer turned his back on a thriving career as a realist painter to pursue new directions in modern art.”

“His father was a very traditional artist who actually worked for Currier & Ives. He strongly disapproved of his son’s fascination with modern art.”

“After his mother’s death in 1917, he gradually withdrew from the world and committed suicide in 1932.”

“Although his modern art was never a commercial success during his life, he is now viewed as one of the great American modernists.”


Maurer Timeline. Scroll over images to see timeline.