Week Five’s comparison shows two very different styles of portraiture, but the juxtaposition of the images makes it appear that there’s a conversation going on. Tell us what you think Otto Neumann’s figure might be saying to Marguerite Miller’s portrait of Jane Allen.
During the early twentieth century, the movement toward the modernist ethos of total abstraction and non-objectivity caused portraiture to fall out of favor with many artists. Though fewer artists were exclusively portraitists in the traditional sense, many turned to portraiture at some point in their career including moderns like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. The experience in making portraits played a key role in rethinking issues surrounding representation and artistic interpretation that challenged artists of the avant-garde.
German artist, Otto Neumann, is an example of an artist whose experience with portraiture influenced his later styles. Dedicated to the human form, Neumann’s career reflects a number of distinct, highly articulate styles and techniques. His work ranges from masterful expressionist linocuts to pencil drawings of grotesques, painted portraits, and an extensive series of figurative and abstract monotypes like the one seen here.
In contrast, Charleston artist, Marguerite Miller was best known as a portrait painter. She worked from her studio at the Gibbes Museum of Art in the 1920s and early 1930s and her paintings were featured in exhibitions throughout the Southeast. Her portrait of Jane Allen in both form and pose makes an interesting comparison to the abstracted and anonymous human figure depicted by Neumann.