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1938 Byron Browne Born: Yonkers, New York 1907 Died: New York, New York 1961 oil on fiberboard 14 x 12 in. (35.6 x 30.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Patricia and Phillip Frost 1986.92.9 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 41B

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Luce Center Quote

"I sometimes paint the object more, I sometimes paint the object less, but by all means I must paint the object." The artist, quoted in Levin, "Byron Browne: In the Context of Abstract Expressionism" (Arts Magazine, Summer 1985)

Luce Center Label

At first glance, Byron Browne's Head appears frightening, with its menacing mouth and abstracted features. The pastel colors and the figure’s gaze, however, make it less intimidating and perhaps more human. Browne was greatly inspired by nature and felt his artwork should reflect what he saw in spite of his abstract style. The figure in Head also evokes a primitive mask. This type of mask, predominately from Africa, but also from Asia and Pre-Columbian America, was inspirational for a number of abstract artists during the first half of the twentieth century due to its simplified geometric shapes and sometimes brightly colored designs. Browne became interested in primitive masks while studying at the National Academy of Design in the 1920s. His style was also greatly shaped by European abstract artists, particularly Pablo Picasso, whose works reflected the influence of primitive masks as early as 1907.

This artwork was recommended by citizen curator Jason DeFontes as part of our Fill the Gap project on Flickr.



Figure - head


paint - oil