Marius de Zayas (Mexican, 18801961)
Charcoal on paper; 24 3/4 x 18 5/8 in. (62.9 x 47.3 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.70.183)
Born in Mexico to an illustrious family of artists and writers (his father was a newspaper publisher and poet laureate), de Zayas received his art training in Europe before moving to the United States in 1906. During his early career, he produced caricatures of political and theatrical figures for newspapers and magazines in Mexico, France, and America. His association with Alfred Stieglitz (18641946) and Stieglitz's first New York gallery, 291, began in 1907 and supplied a new cast of characters for his satirical eyeparticularly the artists and photographers who exhibited there. As an astute observer of human nature and a gallery insider (1907ca. 1915), he not only documented the key members of the Stieglitz circle in his witty portraits but also provided insights into the dynamics within the group. Additionally, de Zayas played a pivotal role as art advisor to Stieglitz, and his interest in African tribal art and admiration for Picasso's Cubist work generated early groundbreaking exhibitions at 291. In 1915, de Zayas opened The Modern Gallery, where he continued to show European and African art for the next few years, before retiring to France.
In this rich black charcoal drawing, de Zayas suggests the interdependent relationship between Stieglitz and one of his most important artists, John Marin (18701953). Stieglitz (at left), looking robust and self-satisfied, stands next to the sharply angled figure of his good friend, the master watercolorist whose work he heartily promoted in all three of his galleries. As in their personal and professional lives, the two seem tethered by a line that here runs from the top of Stieglitz's head through the tip of Marin's nose and back into Stieglitz's pocket. The drawing was shown at 291 in 1913 in de Zayas' third and last exhibition at 291 (the first two were held in 1909 and 1910).