FRITZ WILHELM WINOLD REISS (1886–1953)
Portrait of Miss C. Burton—Texas, 1930
Pastel on Whatman board, 39 x 26 in.
Signed (at lower right): WINOLD / REISS
EX COLL.: estate of the artist, until the present
Reiss spent the early years of the Depression in New York, where because of his experience in creating public art, as well as his thriving art school, he fared better than many of his contemporaries. Reiss had moved his studio from 4 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village to a warehouse at 108 West 16th Street in late 1927, with Reiss remodeling the space to accommodate large skylights for natural light for the classrooms. Reiss’s school powered right past the crash and remained a vibrant center of artistic activity, serving as a gathering space for a variety of artists, dancers, and musicians.
Reiss’s portraits from the first few months after the stock market crash seem unfazed by the unfolding economic crisis that was to grip New York and the nation for more than a decade. At this time, Reiss worked on the large St. George Hotel commission, filling its ballroom with 50 x 30-inch portraits of actresses and models wearing furs and dresses, and additionally producing a series of eleven “American Beauties” for the hotel, featuring a cast of society women dressed in downtown evening regalia. Portrait of Miss C. Burton—Texas is a beautiful portrait in pastel related in spirit to the St. George Hotel works, executed at the same moment. Reiss presents Miss Burton in a fine, luxuriant robe, her hair pomaded and curled and ears adorned with a pair of fancy earrings, while the decorations surrounding her long and imposing figure are pure Art Deco. According to the artist’s ledger (estate of the artist), Reiss painted Portrait of Miss C. Burton—Texas in April 1930, and from the artist’s school records (estate of the artist), Miss Burton studied at Reiss’s school for four months in 1930, presumably arriving that April from Texas for a summer stay in New York City.