History And Context
For Kuhn, the path from idea to completed canvas was often lengthy; numerous preparatory drawings and sketches were executed, and costumes were sewn before he actually began painting. However, when idea and costume came together, he would work directly from a specifically chosen model and complete the piece in a few days. After the model had left, he added finishing touches with delicate brushstrokes or with the little finger of his right hand. The signature and date came last, and then Kuhn called his wife and daughter to see "the new addition to Walt Kuhn's family of 'painting children'." Performer Resting became part of this "family" in 1929. The performer Teddy Bergman served as Kuhn’s model. Kuhn placed Bergman a shallow picture place; the viewer is intruding on his space, yet he does not seem to notice or care.
Performer Resting was presented to the public for the first time at the Downtown Gallery in New York in 1929. Phillips read about the exhibition in Art Digest and went to New York to see Kuhn’s work. He purchased this painting, along with Girl with Mirror, on the spot, saying he was "glad to get Kuhn so well represented at last and....I agree with those who have long predicted that he would be one of the really important American artists...." Marie Harriman, Kuhn's dealer after 1930, wrote to Phillips that the artist believed the two paintings to be "very important examples of his work....He [Kuhn] has found a great personal satisfaction in the thought that these paintings had been chosen by you to be part of your collection...."
Phillips included the painting in a 1932 exhibition, Kuhn's first solo Washington show. The paintings were admired by critics for their strength of form and characterization, commenting that, "Kuhn approaches real greatness." Phillips himself observed, "Kuhn's rise to the front rank is evident enough...in such handsome and personal canvases as 'Performer Resting,' poised and restrained evidences of plastic power now ready for distinguished expression in the latest grand manner...."