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Figure with Spiders

Accession Number
1979/2.115

Title
Figure with Spiders

Artist(s)
William Baziotes

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
1938

Medium & Support
watercolor on laid paper

Dimensions
11 13/16 in x 8 7/8 in (30 cm x 22.6 cm);22 3/16 in x 18 3/16 in (56.36 cm x 46.2 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Gerome Kamrowski

Label copy
Born in Pittsburgh of Greek descent, Baziotes received thorough training at the National Academy of Design in New York before developing his own style. His work of the 1930s is elegant and lyrical in its use of calligraphic line; by the late 1930s, it shows surrealistic tendencies, as seen in the work of Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. There is a violent element in these works, which dissipated in the 1940s as the world around him descended into war.
In Figure with Spiders, Baziotes uses sinuous and sensuous line whose elegant, curving, and somewhat decorative character is strongly contrasted with what it forms—an amorphous figure surrounded by sixteen descending spiders. The enlarged, simplified eyes and open mouth heighten the emotional content of the work. The rich colors of both the background and the form itself are articulated with carefully conceived lines, from the tiny hairs visible on the outline of the figure to the veining that travels over its surface. The figure bears a resemblance to vague, monstrous forms featured in some of Picasso’s work from the same period.
Sean M. Ulmer, University Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, on the occasion of the exhibition The New York School: Abstract Expressionism and Beyond, July 20, 2002 – January 19, 2003

Subject matter
Created during the time when Baziotes worked in the easel division of the Federal Art Project (Starting 1938), this work shows his interest in the Symbolist poets, French Surrealism and European Modernism. Working in New York, Baziotes had already met many of his European contemporaries as they fled Fascism. 

In Figure with Spiders, Baziotes uses a sinuous and sensuous line, whose elegant, curving, and somewhat decorative character is strongly contrasted with what it forms—an amorphous figure surrounded by sixteen descending spiders. The enlarged, simplified eyes and open mouth heighten the emotional content of the work. The rich colors of both the background and the form itself are articulated with carefully conceived lines, from the tiny hairs visible on the outline of the figure to the veining that travels over its surface. The figure bears a resemblance to vague, monstrous forms featured in some of Picasso’s work from the same period.

Physical Description
At the center of this work, there is a red, yellow, and blue figure with a gold hoop earring in the right ear. Eight black spiders dangle from lines on each side of figure and a snake-like createure is at the top. The whole watercolor has a rusty-orange backdrop.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Additional Object Classification(s)
Drawing

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
Araneae (order)
Figures
Insects
New Deal
Surrealist
head
heads (animal components)
modern and contemporary art
watercolors (paintings)