1944 George L. K. Morris Born: New York, New York 1905 Died: Stockbridge, Massachusetts 1975 oil on fiberboard and plaster relief sight 17 7/8 x 16 in. (45.4 x 40.7 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Patricia and Phillip Frost 1986.92.67 Not currently on view
Posthumous Portrait is Morris's eulogy for the Paris he knew before the Germans occupied the city in World War II. The collage style recalls the heady days when Picasso and Braque experimented with Cubism and broke the old rules of art. By 1944 the freedom that they, Morris, and a generation of artists and writers had known was gone.
Morris's abstract shapes suggest a great, helmeted head in a space filled with smaller soldiers and two stick figures of falling bodies. The sharp-edged rectangle on the right side of the face, and a much smaller one above, suggest bayonets. Bits of words cut off by these elements appear to spell "Boulangerie d'Alençon," perhaps a favorite bakery from Morris's Paris days.
Morris made several abstract paintings about the war in Europe. Like other artists who had been politically active in the 1930s, he felt he could do little but watch the devastation unfold. This work is a protest against Germany's brutality, but it is also a retreat-a poignant memory of better days when he and other Park Avenue Cubists enjoyed the pleasures that only Paris could provide.
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006
Object - letter
paint - oil