On August 5, 1932, The New York Times reported that on the previous day the artist A. H. Maurer had died. A suicide by hanging, it went on in gruesome detail, from a door-casing on the third floor in his home at 404 West Forty-third Street. It was another episode of an all-too-familiar American story—suicide: Patrick Henry Bruce in 1936, Pollock in 1956, Rothko in 1970; early deaths: Morton Schamberg and Arthur Frost, Jr. in 1918; forced cessation of work: Gerald Murphy by 1930. All were losses that modern American art could ill afford. Little wonder that modernism here could not develop any real depth.

Alfred Maurer played a major role in the development of modern art in America, and in the last four years of his life he created a body of Cubist still lifes that were a high point of world art. The obituary made no such observation, praising at length his prize-winning early paintings, but...


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