Living in Paris from 1897 to 1914, Alfred Maurer was one of the first Americans to embrace the mainstream of European modernism. Returning permanently to New York on the eve of World War I, Maurer continued his mastery of modernist styles and is credited, along with Arthur B. Carles, with reintroducing a cubist influence into American art during the 1920s and 1930s. His most fully realized modernist constructions are the inventive still lifes he painted in the four to five years before his suicide in 1932. He had adapted cubism to depict bowls of fruits and vegetables from a bird’s eye view. In these paintings he would use the same objects—a table, a vase, a picture on the wall, and fruit in a dish—and continually rearrange his compositions.
Still Life with Doily is from a series of three in which Maurer introduced a bit of whimsy by stenciling a doily on the canvas, creating a visual pun that played on what is real and what is imagined. Maurer plays with color, using it to create form and depth within the painting surface. With its richly patterned decorative arrangement, tactile surface, fusion of surface and depth, interfacing of geometric objects and architectural elements, Still Life with Doily is a distillation of Maurer’s still life technique.