Label Text: Manierre Dawson is credited with being America’s first abstract artist. He studied mechanical drawing and geometry for a career as a civil engineer, but preferred to paint. He had developed his own geometrical style of abstraction before taking a six-month trip to Europe. There, he saw the work of avant-garde artists like Cézanne and Picasso, but also studied the Old Masters. He responded with his Museum Paintings series.
Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna inspired the underlying structure or “bones” of Dawson’s Mother and Child. We see Dawson’s experimentation with a semi-cubist style in the faceted surfaces that merge the foreground and the background into a single plane of angles and broken lines. The Bruges Madonna is “broken apart” and reassembled in a new and exciting way. While Dawson’s muted color palette is characteristic of early Cubism, he acknowledges Medieval and Renaissance painting conventions by portraying the Madonna and Christ Child in their traditional blue and red robes.