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Walt Kuhn

Still Life with Red Bananas

Among the most senior of the artists included in Advancing American Art, Walt Kuhn was sixty-nine at the time of the exhibition’s opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He achieved fame a generation earlier as one of the key organizers of the International Exhibition of Modern Art in 1913, known more familiarly as the Armory Show. As secretary of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS), under the aegis of which the Armory Show was assembled, Kuhn was instrumental in bringing a modernist aesthetic to the attention of the American people.

Still Life with Red Bananas figures among only seven oil paintings by Kuhn from 1941, six of which are still-life compositions. Although he is probably best known for his stolid depictions of acrobats, clowns, and circus performers, Kuhn returned to the still-life throughout his career, most often painting these images in the same direct and unembellished manner in which he rendered the human form. This deceptively simple configuration of common objects recalls Paul Cézanne’s analytical assessments of forms in space in similar subjects.

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