spacer Willard Huntington Wright (S. S. Van Dine) Willard Huntington Wright
(S. S. Van Dine)


Willard Huntington Wright began his career in California writing book reviews for the Los Angeles Times. In 1911 he moved to New York and was soon named editor of the monthly magazine The Smart Set. Also an important art critic, he championed the modernist trends of the day in Modern Painting (1915) and The Future of Painting (1923). A nervous breakdown during the mid-1920s sparked a new phase in his literary career. Confined to his bed for two years, he sought relaxation in fiction and became a master of the detective novel, which he wrote under the pseudonym S. S. Van Dine.

Wright journeyed to Paris in 1913, on his way to see the exhibition of Synchromist paintings in Munich presented by his brother, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, and Morgan Russell. His article, "Impressionism to Synchromism," published in New York in December of that year, did much to promote this type of abstraction. Although MacDonald-Wright's portrait of his literary sibling is unlike any of his Synchromist works, it does reveal the artist's interest in the style of French painter Paul C‚zanne.

Stanton MacDonald-Wright (1890-1973)
Oil on canvas, 1913-1914
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Acquisition made possible by a generous contribution from the James Smithson Society

Enlarged image

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