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Patrick Henry Bruce


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Painter. Best known for a small group of stunningly original, geometricized still lifes done in the 1920s, he had previously worked in a form of color abstraction related to synchromism. Born in Long Island, Virginia, he began his artistic training in Richmond, where he grew up. After moving to New York in 1902, he studied with William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri at the New York School of Art (now Parsons, the New School for Design). By early 1904 he was in Paris, where in 1906 he met Arthur Burdett Frost Jr., subsequently a close friend. Along with Frost, from 1908 Bruce studied with Matisse. While working closely between 1912 and 1915 with French painters Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Bruce emulated Robert's use of discs to organize abstract compositions. In 1916 he developed a form of abstract painting that resembled Morgan Russell's synchromist compositions of muscular, flat color areas, as in Composition I (Yale University Art Gallery, 1916). Beginning around 1917, Bruce reintroduced limited representation into his paintings. He assembled still life objects, drastically reduced to simplified volumes, into spatially ambiguous arrangements. Although related to the Purism of French artists Le Corbusier and Amédée Ozenfant, Bruce's paintings achieve more vivacious effects. Playful, decorative, and vividly colored, sometimes dauntingly complex, these sophisticated and original works found little appreciation. In the early 1930s Bruce destroyed many works, moved to Versailles, and nearly ceased painting. In 1936 he returned to the United States for the first time since a visit in 1905. A few months later he committed suicide in New York.

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