Caroline Durieux


"Take Me to Your Leader," 1936

Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower right: Caroline Durieux
18" H x 14" W

  • Provenance: The Collection of Frederick W. Davis
    Private Collection, Southern California, by descent from the above
  • Notes: Titled in the original correspondence and inventory of Fredrick Davis's estate ledger dated 1965.

    Caroline Durieux: A Trailblazing Journey in Satirical Surrealism

    Born on June 28, 1896, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Caroline Durieux emerged as a significant figure in the art world, leaving an indelible mark on surrealist art and establishing a unique relationship with the art scene in Louisiana and Latin America. Her captivating works and groundbreaking contributions continue to captivate and inspire artists and art enthusiasts alike.

    Caroline Durieux explored surrealism throughout her career and sought to unlock the mysteries of the unconscious mind and bring them to life on canvas. Her distinctive style, dreamlike imagery, and meticulous attention to detail led her to create thought-provoking and visually engaging compositions. Durieux's work often conveyed a sense of whimsy, allowing viewers to glimpse into the intricate landscapes of her imagination. Carl Zigrosser, Keeper of Prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, wrote: "Durieux is master of her instrument. It is like an epigram delivered in a deadpan manner: the meaning sinks in casually; when all of a sudden, the full impact dawns on one, it haunts one for days. Her work has that haunting quality because its roots are deep, its vision profound."

    Durieux's surrealist art often collided with her satirical sense of humor regarding the socioeconomic class from which she came. Her family often mocked her as being the "red sister" when compared to her well-to-do sibling. Durieux was never a confirmed member of the communist party, but her leftist leanings were evident in her work. She often made fun of the wealthy and their predilections by creating cartoonish caricature-like portraits of those around her.

    One of the notable aspects of Durieux's artistic career was her connection to fellow artist and collaborator William Spratling. After crossing paths with him during the 1920s in the Vieux Carre section of New Orleans, she introduced Spratling to another artistic contemporary, William Faulkner.

    Durieux would follow in Spratling's footsteps as he moved to Taxco Mexico and created a silver empire. She and her husband moved to Mexico City, where her husband continued the family business of importing textile goods from Latin America. Durieux and Spratling's creative partnership and her experience living within the Mexican artistic community added depth and dimension to Durieux's work as she exchanged ideas and influences with those around her. Spratling's tendencies to forgo societal niceties in favor of genuine expression complemented Durieux's reflexive need to create surrealist drawings and paintings.

    Spratling's relationship with local silver and antiques dealer Fred Davis would lead to Davis procuring one of Durieux's early paintings, "Take Me To Your Leader." Davis collected Durieux's work amongst other local artists and became a preeminent collector of Latin American silver and art from the early 20th century.

    Durieux would also meet and collaborate with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Mexico. Rivera would go on to paint a portrait of Caroline Durieux. Durieux's antagonistic views toward the upper echelons of society would continue to be evident in the art she produced in Mexico and later on in life as she returned to New Orleans.

    After returning to Louisiana, Tulane University in New Orleans played a pivotal role in shaping Caroline Durieux's artistic trajectory. She became an integral part of the university's art scene as an instructor and a mentor. During the 1950s and '60s, she pioneered a new technique of exposing photographic prints to radioactive ink. This process enhanced the surrealist nature of her work.

    Her presence enriched the artistic community, and her teachings inspired countless aspiring artists to explore their creative potential. Durieux's involvement with Tulane University solidified her reputation as a trailblazer in the art world, setting an example for emerging female artists who sought to carve out their own space within the male-dominated realm of surrealism.

    In the world of female surrealist art, Caroline Durieux stood out as a pioneering force. Her determination to navigate the challenges of a predominantly male artistic landscape made her a beacon of inspiration for women artists striving to establish themselves. Through her work and advocacy, she shattered glass ceilings and paved the way for future female artists to embrace critical surrealism and assert their creative voices.

    Durieux's iconic painting "Take Me to Your Leader," which was acquired by Fred Davis, is an oil on canvas piece that exemplifies her unique blend of surrealism and social commentary. With its intricate details and imaginative elements, the painting invites viewers to contemplate the juxtaposition of the ordinary and the extraordinary. It also prompts reflections on the complex interplay between classist structures in the American South.

    Caroline Durieux's legacy is a testament to her unwavering commitment to pushing artistic boundaries and championing female surrealist art.

    1 - http://blog.nola.com/dougmaccash/2008/03/conflicted_caroline.html
  • Condition: Visual: Overall good condition.

    Blacklight: A pea-sized area of touch-up on the top of the figure's head in the upper left quadrant.

    Frame: 23" H x 19.25" W x 2.25" D

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December 6, 2023 12:00 PM PST
Monrovia, CA, US

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