Alfred Maurer was one of the first American painters to reflect the influence of European modernism in his painting. Born in New York, Maurer studied in 1884 at the National Academy of Design, New York, where he became recognized as an accomplished painter of portraits inspired by those of James A. M. Whistler and American impressionist William Merritt Chase. From 1897–1914 Maurer lived in Paris where he became acquainted with fellow Americans Arthur Dove and Gertrude and Leo Stein. It was in the Stein’s salon, a well-known meeting place for Americans and modern French artists, that Maurer met Henri Matisse. The intense color and expressive freedom of Matisse’s fauvist paintings forced Maurer to reexamine the fundamentals of his art. Maurer’s painting between 1905 and 1914 became the work of an artist whose gift for lyric expression had been released for the first time. Using the bold colors of the fauve palette and the dark, rough outlines of pre-cubist art, Maurer attacked his canvases with renewed vigor. Widely respected by his avant-garde contemporaries, Maurer exhibited in 1909 at Alfred Stieglitz’s Gallery 291 in New York, in the 1913 New York Armory Show, and was an associate member of the modernist Salon d’Automne in Paris.
In 1914, on the eve of World War I, Maurer permanently returned to New York. For Maurer the departure from Paris was painful, but he continued to increase his mastery of modernism, assimilating aspects of cubism and even venturing into abstraction at a time when such developments were anathema to popular opinion in the United States.
In 1924 the art dealer Ernest Weyhe purchased the contents of Maurer’s studio—more than 255 works—and Weyhe became his artistic representative, providing Maurer long-awaited financial security. At this point in Maurer’s career, Duncan Phillips began collecting Maurer’s works on Weyhe’s advice. The Phillips Collection owns five works by Maurer, four late oil paintings and one watercolor.