Morton Livingston Schamberg (American, 1881 - 1918)

1916. Oil on canvas, 24 x 20". 1931.263

In the course of several trips abroad, beginning in 1905, Morton Schamberg developed an interest in Modernist abstraction, working for a time in the manner of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. About 1915, Schamberg and Charles Sheeler, inspired by the humor of Dada, took up mechanical subjects—here, a telephone on a table near a window. The familiar components of the telephone are painted in the Cubist style—alternately transparent and opaque, flat and three-dimensional. Contoured lines extend beyond some shapes to emphasize the flatness and the artifice of the painting. Schamberg’s career was ended suddenly when he died in the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic. He was buried on his thirty-seventh birthday.

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