Recent Acquisitions: Suzy Frelinghuysen, Cubist Collage #7, about 1936

Hood Quarterly, autumn 2013
Sarah G. Powers, Assistant Curator for Special Projects 

From about 1935 to her death, Suzy Frelinghuysen produced a remarkable body of work that drew on her intense study of cubism and abstract painting. She applied this avant-garde pictorial language to American subject matter and to musical forms that acknowledged her other career as an accomplished opera singer.

Cubist Collage #7 dates from the early stages of Frelinghuysen's career, when she began to exhibit her first paintings and collages alongside those of her husband, George L. K. Morris, and other members of the "Park Avenue Cubists" group. In Cubist Collage #7, Frelinghuysen employed an oval format, frequently used by Picasso and Braque in their collages and paintings of 1912–13. The shape referred to a café table, a symbol of artistic life and creative exchange that served as the foundation for cubist tabletop compositions. These works often incorporated collage elements, such as newspapers and textured cardboard, and also frequently included allusions to musical instruments. In Frelinghuysen's collage, she combined these elements of cubist vocabulary with her own personal immersion in art and music. Employing the lines of corrugated cardboard overlaid on a triangular piece of black paper, Frelinghuysen created the form of a black grand piano, the instrument of vocal accompaniment. The composition incorporates newspaper print in English and Italian, with the prominent headline "Gazzetta del . . . ," which probably refers to Gazzetta del Popolo, a newspaper printed in Turin, Italy, that Frelinghuysen may have collected on her frequent trips to Italy to study opera.

In 1947, Frelinghuysen auditioned for the New York City Opera and was soon cast in leading roles in productions such as Ariadne auf Naxos and Tosca under the name Suzy Morris. Her principal interest shifted to her musical career, and she painted little during this period. However, her opera career was cut short due to a bout of bronchitis in 1951, and Frelinghuysen refocused on her work as an artist until her death in 1988. Cubist Collage #7 will be on view in the exhibition Cubism and Its Legacy.

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Written September 01, 2013