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Bird Cage

John D. Graham ( 1931 )

Collection item 0809
  • Period Twentieth-Century
  • Materials Oil on canvas
  • Object Number 0809
  • Dimensions 22 x 26 in.; 55.88 x 66.04 cm.
  • Credit Line Acquired 1931

Bird Cage is one of John Graham’s most cubist pieces. For inspiration, Graham looked to his own studio for source material and subject matter, which included a bird cage and the bust. He flattened the picture plane, emphasizing the flat, two-dimensional surface, and divided the canvas into horizontal sections through the use of solid colors and lines. The objects have been reduced to geometric shapes and the only definition to the canvas is Graham’s brushwork, in which he painted some surface texture. Most peculiar about this painting is that while the canvas itself is rectangular, Graham set the objects within an oval frame, emphasizing that this is indeed a painting, not a mere replication of objects. Graham signed his name at the bottom of the painting, not as a signature, but more as an emblazoned nameplate. Both the oval canvas shape and distinct signature are cubist motifs, and Graham owes a debt of gratitude to the work of Picasso for such works as Bird Cage.