A surrealist painting featuring a green door labelled 242.

John Atherton

American, 1900-1952

Untitled (Entrance 242), c. 1935

Tempera on renaissance panel

17 1/8 x 21 inches

Signed lower left

John Atherton’s work was included in the landmark 1943 American Realists and Magic Realists exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which formally defined Magical Realism as an artistic style. As outlined by the MoMA exhibition, Magic Realist works display sharp delineation of forms and close attention to detail. The subjects were often rooted in reality, but embellished with images from the artist’s imagination.

With Untitled (Entrance 242), Atherton proves himself to be an early master of American Surrealism. Devoid of figures, the darkened composition features a building on the right and an anthropomorphic structure on the left. The white arrow painted on the building directs viewers toward the green door, mysteriously labeled 242. Atherton’s juxtaposition of the architectural backdrop with the biomorphic machine showcases his mastery of the ethereality of the movement.

A surrealist painting featuring a green door labelled 242.