76039: BROR ALEXANDER UTTER (American, 1913-1993) Burle
Burlesque Queens, 1956
Oil on canvas
24 x 18 inches (61.0 x 45.7 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Bror Utter '56
Helen and Harry Scott, Fort Worth;
Carter Bowden, Fort Worth;
Kathryn and Morris Matson, Fort Worth.
Barrack Gallery, Wichita Falls, 1960;
Fort Worth Art Center, Bror Utter: A Retrospective Exhibition of the Work of Bror Utter, 1961;
Texas Christian University, Bror Utter: Fifty Years of his Art, 1985.
The Burlesque Queens is a stunning example of Bror Utter's mature work. Painted at the height of his talent, it combines visual subjects that appear repeatedly throughout his career, including voluptuous women, muses, figures with their arms raised in celebration or offering, and characters inspired by the burlesque reviews and vaudeville troops that regularly visited Fort Worth during his youth. In this work, Utter's distinctive use of personal color, ambiguous space, and changing perspective creates a moody, dream-like quality that characterize his work.
The Burlesque Queens has a particularly dynamic composition. The echoing lines, colors, and shapes that fan out from the dancers could represent the movement of dance, music, sacred energy, or clothing being removed during a performance-most likely all four at once. Celebration of both the sacred and profane in a single image is a recurring theme in Utter's work.
Painted in 1956, Utter has really hit his stride in The Burlesque Queens. It is somewhere in between his regionalist style of the 1930s and early-1940s and his highly abstract works of the 1960s. Increasingly abstract human figures are transformed into strange vessels and bird-like creatures. In his later, more decidedly abstract work, figures with arms raised in supplication or joy would eventually become abstract forms topped by crescents, tips pointing to the sky. Indeed, no matter how abstract his work became, Utter would always remain, at heart, a figural artist. The Burlesque Queens is an example of both Texas Modernism and Bror Utter at their best.
Bror Utter was a leading member of the Fort Worth Circle, a group of artists that also included Bill Bomar, Veronica Helfensteller, and Dickson and Flora Blanc Reeder. In the 1930s and 1940s, these friends and collaborators helped each other to develop their work in styles that included the influence of art movements such as Surrealism, Modernism, and Regionalism. He studied with Sallie Gillespie and attended the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts while he worked in the lithograph store that his family owned. Later, he went to the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center on a scholarship. After returning to Fort Worth, he taught until 1951, when he was able to become a full-time artist.
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