John Graham (1881–1961)

The Green Chair, 1928

Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 × 28 7/8 in. (100.3 × 73.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.60

Born Ivan Dombrowski in Kiev, Russia, the artist and intellectual John Graham espoused the expression of art through pure form. Admired for his wide range of interests—from theosophy to religion and mathematics—and for his remarkable knowledge of art theory, he became influential in the development of post–World War II abstract expressionism. Painted and exhibited for the first time in Paris in 1928 at the Zborowski Gallery, The Green Chair is part of a series of Graham’s monumental nudes of the 1920s. Here, a stylized female figure, seated on a chair, is seen in classic profile; the viewer is prompted to interpret the painting formally. The woman’s masklike face recalls African sculpture, which enjoyed wide appeal at that time. Graham abstracted and compressed the human figure to encourage archetypal associations that tie together artistic traditions from the past with forward-looking modernist trends.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.