Hedda Sterne, Machine Five, 1950. Oil, canvas. Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1950-7-1

Hedda Sterne, Machine Five, 1950. Oil, canvas. Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1950-7-1
Hedda Sterne, Machine Five, 1950. Oil, canvas. Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1950-7-1
Hedda Sterne
1950

51 x 38.25 inches

Hedda Sterne was trained in Bucharest, where she was born, and later in Vienna.

In the 1930s, her compatriot and fellow artist Victor Brauner introduced her to the surrealists in Paris, and late in the decade she began exhibiting with them. In 1941, Sterne narrowly eluded a roundup of Jews in German-occupied Bucharest and escaped to New York, where art patron Peggy Guggenheim introduced her to a vital community of émigré artists, including Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Piet Mondrian. After her first solo exhibition in New York in 1943, Sterne joined the roster of the Betty Parsons Gallery, which included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Ad Reinhardt, and became a significant presence in New York.

Machine 5 is an outstanding example of what Sterne has called her "anthropographs," images of machines with human-like qualities that she painted from the late 1940s through the early '50s. The concept of the anthropographs stemmed from Sterne's observation on arriving in the United States that the American landscape was more surreal than any surrealist invention. She was intrigued by the idea that human beings, possessing an insatiable desire for consumption, make machines that unconsciously serve as portraits of their own inner needs. Most likely inspired by a New York City construction site, the abstract and impossibly top-heavy industrial equipment in Machine 5 undermines any notion of conventional function. The vibrant red background detaches the machine from any setting. At once whimsical and frightening, it has come to life, with multiple eyes wide open and jaws ready to devour. 

Text by Sarah Eckhardt, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008

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Louis Comfort Tiffany, Favrile Candle Lamp (detail), 1982-16-6_7. Iridescent glass, hand-wrought bronze. Gift of Willis N. and Louis Bruce 1982-16-6, 1982-16-7
Louis Comfort Tiffany, Favrile Candle Lamps (detail), 1982-16-6_7. Iridescent glass, hand-wrought bronze. Gift of Willis N. and Louis Bruce 1982-16-6, 1982-16-7

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Louis Comfort Tiffany, Favrile Candle Lamps, 1982-16-6_7. Iridescent glass, hand-wrought bronze. Gift of Willis N. and Louis Bruce 1982-16-6, 1982-16-7
Louis Comfort Tiffany, Favrile Candle Lamps, 1982-16-6_7. Iridescent glass, hand-wrought bronze. Gift of Willis N. and Louis Bruce 1982-16-6, 1982-16-7
Louis Comfort Tiffany
ca. 1906–18

16 x 5 inches each

These candlesticks consist of tall slender bronze shafts capped by tulip-shaped glass shades. The swirling organic motif of the wide circular bases offers a rough texture that balances the smooth finish of the shafts' simple geometric ornamentation. A cup at the top of the shafts conceals a cylindrical hollow for holding candles, and screws secure the glass shades.

Both candlesticks preserve their original brown patina. Three identifying marks are inscribed on the underside of each base: the phrase "Tiffany Studios" in block letters, the Tiffany monogram, and the item number (30388 and 30353, respectively). The shades are made of Tiffany Studios' patented hand-blown Favrile glass. Both shades are amber-colored with an iridescent sheen vacillating between red and gold. One also features blue iridescence. The initials "L.C.T." are incised on the bases.

In 1898, Louis Comfort Tiffany added a foundry to his decorative-glass business, creating the Tiffany Studios in New York. Tiffany was influenced by the hand-crafting principles of the Arts & Crafts movement and the organic forms of Art Nouveau, while remaining a pragmatic citizen of the industrial age. Thus, Tiffany Studios produced both unique decorative-arts pieces and handmade, albeit mass-produced, items for commercial sale.

These candlesticks belong to the latter category, in which hand-worked elements are combined with mold-made forms. Hand-production is evident in the shades' variation of coloration and silhouette, while the uniform bases signal the use of molds. Components of these candlesticks resemble other objects produced by Tiffany Studios, but the pairing of a single tulip shade with a long, slender shaft is unparalleled. These objects are rare among Tiffany's output, with no known identical examples.

Text by Julia Sienkewicz, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008