Energy Manifestation #4, 1933, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches, signed and dated lower left. Likely exhibited at Nicolaides’ solo show at the Wadsworth Atheneum (Morgan Memorial Building), Hartford, Connecticut, in April, 1933 (see Memorial Opens Varied Display of Nicolaides Work, Originality Distinguishes Creations of New York City Artist, Hartford Courant, April 5, 1933)
About the Painting
This rare work comes from Nicolaides’ energy series, which draws on a unique combination of machine- age aesthetics, Italian-influenced Futurism and French-inspired Surrealism. But, this is a uniquely American work produced in the melting pot of the 1930s metropolis, New York City. Nicolaides uses the ray lines of the American precisionists to frame a pulsating apparatus that unites man and machine as one. The cogs and gears of the fantasy machine seamlessly blend with the hand of its operator. We are left to wonder whether the two are working together in harmony or whether the worker has been absorbed into the machine, like a Depression era robot. In reviewing the 1933 Wadsworth Atheneum show, where works from Nicolaides’ energy series were exhibited, a critic described these paintings as “combining . . . highly imaginative form aspects of machinery and flashes of color which seem to represent light and heat.” The same critic praised the artist, “Mr. Nicolaides here achieves powerful effects with line, mass and color. These pictures are striking for the solidity of the objects portrayed, for their composition and for their delicate orchestration of tones.” Commenting on the same exhibition, Frederick Hynd, the director of the Hartford Art School, noted that “Mr. Nicolaides’ work was noteworthy for its extremely personal sense of color and for its imagination” and that the artist achieved decorative effects “based on emotional ideas.”
About the Artist
Kimon Nicolaides was a painter, muralist, teacher and author. Born in Washington DC, Nicolaides ran away from his home to escape his parents’ opposition to his becoming an artist. He went to New York and enrolled in the Art Students League and supported himself with odd jobs. After serving in the Army during the Great War as a camouflage and map artist, Nicolaides studied and painted in Paris where he exhibited at Bernheim-Jeune in 1922. He then returned to New York where he taught at the Art Students League and the New York School of Applied Design for Women. He exhibited at the Whitney Club (now the Whitney Museum of American Art), the Art institute of Chicago and the Salons of America. In 1932, his work was selected for the early Museum of Modern Art exhibit Murals by American Painters and Photographers. The catalog for this exhibition shows his work next to Georgia O’Keefe’s mural study for Manhattan. Known as a popular and caring teacher, Nicolaides wrote an artists’ how-to manual called The Natural Way to Draw, which was posthumously published in 1941. It has been influential treatise for many decades. His works are in the collections of a number of public institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art. Nicolaides is listed in Who was Who in American Art and other standard references.