I've always loved Florine Stettheimer's work. What are we seeing here?
"Heat" shows the five women of the Stettheimer family. Mother Rosetta appears at the top in a black dress, and she’s accompanied by her four daughters: Stella (also in black), Carrie (in yellow), Ettie (in flowered pink) and Florine herself (in white). All five women look like they're drooping from the heat, and so are the branches of the willow trees behind them and the cherry blossoms in a vase on the table.
Stettheimer painted "Heat" to commemorate the summer of 1918, which the family spent at a rented country house in Bedford Hills, New York. Although she was inspired by a specific date and occasion—her mother’s birthday, as noted on the cake at the bottom!—time and place are ambiguous in this scene. The Stettheimer sisters appear ageless, or at least much younger than they really were in 1918.
Stettheimer spent much of her early life traveling and studying art in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland, but she and her sisters and mother came back to New York after World War I and settled permanently in Manhattan. She also designed theatrical stage sets and wrote poetry. However, she rarely exhibited her art during her life time, and since she was independently wealthy, she was free to practice her art without the financial concern of selling it as an income.
I've seen how the surrounding paintings relate the city to the evolving role of the women, but not this one.
"Heat" is by Florine Stettheimer, a female artist. In this painting, she is depicting her mother, three sisters, and herself.
How does it relate to the city?
The painting was created to commemorate the summer of 1918 and her mother's birthday. The women are wearing urban, fashionable clothing and all appear younger than they are. Stettheimer herself is the woman in the white dress.
The Stettheimers had lived in Europe as expatriates but they came back to America at the time of World War I and settled in New York. They were known in New York for their social gatherings of artists, writers, and other creative types. Here we're seeing them at the country place they rented that summer... but we're definitely seeing them as modern, independent women!
Got it! Thank you.
Is this painting considered part of the Surrealist movement, or something else?
Florine Stettheimer generally isn't considered part of the surrealist movement. What about this painting makes you think of surrealism?
I guess the positioning and abstraction of the figures and the trees. It doesn't seem to be a literal scene, more a figurative scene. What movement or style would it be considered apart of?
I can see some similarity for sure. The painting is actually depicting an event from Stettheimer's life, given a fantastical twist. The figures are her mother, three sisters, and the artist herself (she's in white) and depicts her mother's birthday party from the summer of 1918. However, she has given the scene a dreamlike quality: are we inside or outside? What time of day or night is it? We're not sure! Also, the women are shown much younger than they were in real life at that point.
Stettheimer's art has been hard to classify since her work is fairly unique. She spent many years in Europe and continued her artistic training here in New York. Some movements that influenced her would be Symbolism and Post-Impressionism.
Do you know what's written on either side of "happy"?
Thats a good question! It's a birthday cake for Stettheimer's mother. I believe it reads, "Many Happy Returns."