Abstract image of Washington, DC by Irene Rice Pereira.

Irene Rice Pereira

American, 1902-1971

Monument I (Washington), 1938

Oil on canvas

30 x 36 inches

Signed and dated lower right

Irene Rice Pereira was a significant figure in the New York art world of abstract artists during the 1930s and 1940s. She earned early critical acclaim and exhibited her works at the American Contemporary Arts gallery, the Julien Levy Gallery, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century, the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In 1953, Pereira was the first woman to receive a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, shared with artist Loren MacIver. Pereira enjoyed a prolific and varied career until her death in 1971.

Pereira painted the present work in 1938. There are no identifiable machines, but an eerie cityscape with biomorphic forms in the foreground, vaguely resembling the exalted machines that featured dominantly in her earlier paintings. Dark brown, black and grey tones dominate the scene, with a muted red form at left reminiscent of Pereira’s earlier palette. Pereira conceived of this work while visiting Washington D.C. for the opening of her solo exhibition at Howard University in 1938. Consequently, the work has also been referred to as Washington and Greek Twilight. The temple-like façade of the building in the background closely echoes the classical architecture of Washington D.C. A related painting, Monument II, alternately titled Congress, features a similar composition with various anthropomorphic shapes, gears, machinelike forms, and a Doric-style temple in the background.

Abstract image of Washington, DC by Irene Rice Pereira.