Nov 13, 2012

Startled Boy

Startled Boy

c. 1925–30

William Sommer

(American, 1867–1949)

Watercolor with pen and black ink

Support: Wove paper laid down on rigid paper support

Sheet: 38.1 x 28.2 cm (15 x 11 1/8 in.); Secondary Support: 45.5 x 33.8 cm (17 15/16 x 13 5/16 in.)

Gift of Joseph M. Erdelac 2004.46



William Sommer was one of the most radical members of the Cleveland modernist movement. He attended the Armory Show in New York City in 1913, the first major exhibition of European modern art held in the United States, and fell under the spell of Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky. Back in Cleveland, Sommer was encouraged by his friends the modernists William Zorach and August Biehle. Sommer strove for extreme distortions in form and color and wanted to achieve a heightened emotional intensity in his art. The artist wrote, "Art is no longer a sensation we take up with the eyes alone. Art is the creation of our spiritual, inward vision.…Instead of working with the eyes we conceive with the unconscious and thus the [artist's] complete changing of nature." The influence of Matisse is evident in the vivid pinks, blues, and greens in Startled Boy, but the emotional intensity and immediacy of the figure's staring eyes are entirely Sommer's own.

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