Mural Study for Cancer (detail), 1948. Clarence Van Duzer. Tempera on panel; 13 in x 29-1/4 in.
Mark Cole, associate curator of American painting and sculpture, reports that Clarence Van Duzer’s Mural Study for Cancer is a highly expressive composition teeming with more than 50 figures, including doctors, nurses, and anguished patients, one of whom undergoes surface brachytherapy (wherein radiation is applied to the exterior of the body). Hovering overhead in the center of the composition is a bright red form with flame-like tendrils, likely a schematic rendering of a tumor. At left, a group of men vainly attempts to push a massive wall against this form in order to stave off its infiltration. Ranking among Van Duzer’s most accomplished and compelling creations, Mural Study for Cancer is rare in the history of Cleveland art in that it reflects the direct influence of the Mexican muralist movement, a highly important trend in mainstream American painting. Van Duzer spent the bulk of his career in Cleveland working as a painter and sculptor and teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art.