William Baziotes b. 1912, Pittsburgh; d. 1963, New York City
Gouache on pressboard
17 15/16 x 24 inches (45.6 x 61 cm)
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976
William Baziotes and other members of the New York School were influenced by the European Surrealists who had fled to the United States during World War II. Like the Surrealists, Baziotes used objects in his environment as triggers for the memory of early sensations or as conduits to the unconscious. This procedure produced in him an acutely sensitized state of mind that he attempted to formulate visually in his paintings. Baziotes saw this visual manifestation of states of mind as parallel to the literary achievement of the Symbolist poets and of Marcel Proust, whose work he much admired.
Baziotes makes allusions in his paintings to the external world of objects, but these remain elusive and changeable. He usually added his titles after the compositions had emerged through intuitive decisions. Although the titles do not identify subject matter, they nevertheless guide interpretation. Thus, the title of the present work may encourage one to experience the mood of an interior space illuminated by diffused twilight. An atmosphere of nostalgic reverie is evoked by scumbled, weathered layers of gouache in which pastel colors predominate. Unlike Baziotes's most characteristic works, in which biomorphic shapes float freely on an indefinite background, The Room (1945) is constructed architectonically. The gridded structure derives from Piet Mondrian and the Cubists, models for Baziotes before his encounter with the Surrealists.