Louis M. Eilshemius, 1864-1941: An Independent Spirit


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Of the artists I know about who were revered by other artists but not generally appreciated at the same time–including Thomas Eakins, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and Henri Rousseau–Louis Eilshemius is still the most obscure. Despite his academic training in New York and Paris, prodigious self-promotion, and voluminous publication of musical compositions, verse, novels, short stories, and periodicals, he remained unappreciated, even shunned, by his own generation and his elders. He traveled widely on family money and thought of moving to California and Rome, but stayed in New York at the family brownstone on East 57th Street, finally in dire poverty, until his death. He was appreciated, however, by some artists in the generation following his, by Marcel Duchamp, who discovered him in 1917, and by Gaston Lachaise, David Burliuk, Joseph Stella, Abraham Walkowitz, and later Louis Nevelson and others. He stopped painting in 1921, perhaps confounded by the chronological disjunction regarding his reputation, though there is one painting in this exhibition from 1937–Zeppelin in Flames Over New Jersey. Mother Bereft It’s not that there are no precedents or contemporary parallels in American art for Eilshemius’s visionary kind of work, particularly in regard to his inclusion of and obsession with the female nude. But his references are not mythological, like those of Elihu Vedder and Arthur B. Davies, or societal, like Thomas Dewing, or exotic, like John LaFarge. Figures appear as though emerging from some inner realm or unpredictable phenomenon. There is no explanation, except, perhaps, as Paul Karlstrom suggests in his moving catalogue essay, in Eilshemius’s own concurrent love of the world and romantic disappointment.

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Weight 1.45 lbs
Dimensions 12.199999987556 × 9.099999990718 × 0.49999999949 in