Still Life with Skulls II

Still Life with Skulls II

Mercedes Carles Matter (b. 1913 - d. 2001)

Still Life with Skulls II

1982

charcoal and chalk on canvas

Knox College Art Collection

The daughter of the modernist artist Arthur B. Carles, Matter studied with the renowned Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann in the early 1930s. Matter was a notable artist in her own right and was a founding member of the Abstract Expressionist movement during the 1940s and 1950s. As an avant-garde style, Abstract Expressionism combined a Surrealist subjectivity with Cubist space and emphasized the radical flatness of the picture plane. While Matter’s art is centered on these progressive traits, she continued to favor the traditional theme of still life as her peers increasingly moved into non-objective abstraction. Hofmann’s influential principle of “push and pull” is evident in this late charcoal drawing: black lines fluctuate in space and press white planar forms forward. The motif of skulls in the still life reference a personal symbolism inspired by the tradition of Dutch vanitas and the iconic imagery of Georgia O’Keeffe.

Ruth Holmes

Modernist Vision and Women Artists
Still Life with Skulls II