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The Student (L'Etudiante)

Accession Number

The Student (L'Etudiante)

Gerome Kamrowski

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

30 1/16 in. x 11 15/16 in. ( 76.4 cm x 30.4 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Mr. Jean Paul Slusser

Label copy
March 28, 2009
A student of leading European avant-garde artists, a friend and collaborator of New York Abstract Expressionists, and a teacher at the University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design, Gerome Kamrowski came to Surrealism in the late 1930s and continued to explore its possibilities for almost two decades.
According to the 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, Surrealism was “pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought.” In The Student— which perhaps makes playful reference to his experiences as both a student and teacher—Kamrowski creates a self-contained otherworld of shapes and colors. The forms evoke microscopic life, terrestrial existence and the cosmos, woven together by narrow ribbons of color that suggest the canvas is charged with neuro-electrical impulses. The visual elements also imply a seated figure, whose organs are indicated by the white shapes; this is perhaps the student of title, seated in a pose of meditation, whose physical and psychical inner workings are made visible.

Subject matter
Kamrowski's work creates a self-contained other-world of shapes and colors suggestive of microscopic life, terrestrial existence, and the cosmos. The execution also suggests primitive cave art, linking the work to a commentary on the roots of the human psyche. This piece can also be read as presenting the viewer a human form, perhaps the student of the title, whose body is composed of the lithic sections of cold colors and whose physical and psychical inner workings are represented in the white shapes that are connected by the nerve-like lines. The figure appears to be seated in a pose of meditation and the white shapes appear to occupy the shakra power centers described in Hinduism

Physical Description
On a narrow, vertically oriented canvas, white surreal biomorphic forms float over a background of larger biomorphic forms in dark blues and black with some red splashes. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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American (North American)
biomorphic abstraction
figures (representations)
modern and contemporary art
oil painting (technique)

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& Author Notes

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