line Experimental Portraiture

spacer Alfred Stieglitz spacer Paul Whiteman

spacer Fritz Kreisler spacer Agnes Meyer spacer John Drew

The emerging generation of caricaturists realized that a modern look, derived from European art, caught the eye and expressed the vitality of the new century. Departing from comic conventions, these artists began to simplify, elongate, geometricize, and fragment their figural forms. Eventually, their stylish mockery would be fueled by abstractions, collage techniques, color dissonances, and unexpected conflations of Cubism, Fauvism, and Surrealism. "Between modern caricature and modern 'straight' portraiture," critic Henry Tyrrell noted, "there is only a thin and vague line of demarcation. Both are psychological in their way of seeing a subject, exaggerating the salient and significant features."

Progressive artists and critics saw caricature as one more way to experiment with portraiture. Stylized drawings, along with dolls, masks, wire sculpture, and puppets, could summarize personality, conveying nuances of character through non-literal visual effects. Wit and whimsy were recognized as components of modernist aesthetic. Although caricature would develop as a popular art, its appreciation by the avant-garde was mutually influential. Dada humor, abstract portraiture, Alexander Calder's circus and wire constructions, all reflected this intersection.

1. Alfred Stieglitz / Marius de Zayas
2. Paul Whiteman / Miguel Covarrubias
3. Fritz Kreisler / Paolo Garretto
4. Agnes Meyer / Marius de Zayas
5. John Drew / Al Frueh

Past Exhibitions | National Portrait Gallery Home
Introduction Personality Celebrity and the Press Experimental Portraiture Stage Folk The Smart Magazines The Algonquin Round Table Around the Town empty