For years a wonderful little etching has hung near my desk. It commemorates an evening in 1933 when a group of young artists in Brooklyn Heights, three men and three women, celebrated their friendship, ambition, and dedication to modernism by making portraits of one another on a single etching plate. The couples were Edgar Levy and his wife Lucille Corcos, David Smith and his wife Dorothy Dehner, and Adolph Gottlieb and his wife Esther Dick. Who was to portray whom was decided by drawing lots. The result was a grid of vivid characterizations: Levy by Dick, Corcos by Dehner, Smith by Corcos, Dehner by Gottlieb, Gottlieb by Levy, and Dick by Smith. In the top left box, Corcos’s slenderness is suggested by a few delicate lines. Beside her, Smith’s full lips and short nose are rendered energetically; in the next square, Gottlieb’s heavy-lidded eyes and natty moustache are insistently hatched. Everything is presented in ways that bear...


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