Ben Benn, ‘Portrait of M.H. (Marsden Hartley)’, 1915, Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Ben Benn, who trained at the National Academy of Design from 1904 to 1908, changed his artistic style in the wake of the Armory Show. He was particularly attracted to the reductive forms of Cézanne, the illusionistic low relief of the cubists, and the jewel tones of the fauves. In 1913 he participated in his first group exhibition, displaying work alongside that of other Stieglitz-circle affiliates Max Weber and Man Ray. In this canvas he imitates Marsden Hartley’s Berlin portraits, one of which is on view nearby. He employs flat patterning and a limited palette to convey aspects or attributes of the personality in question. Vestiges of recognizable forms—Hartley’s aquiline nose, a necktie and collar—dissipate as the energy surging from a pale blue eye at center left radiates beams that suggest spiritual dynamism.

"This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today"

The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, gift of Ione and Hudson D. Walker

About Ben Benn