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American Paintings and Sculpture
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Artist: John Graham, American, born Russia, 1881–1961

Vox Humana

1931

Oil and sand on canvas

47 × 32 1/16 in. (119.4 × 81.4 cm)
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme
1941.488
In Vox Humana, a flattened, bright red irregular shape evocative of a human form is the central compositional element of the large rectangular canvas. Blocks of white, yellow, black, and brown provide the background for the central form. The lemon yellow shape in the upper right of the canvas is painted with a mixture of oil paint and sand and applied in a thick impasto, creating a rough, raised surface that adds textural interest to the painting. The heavily worked surface includes visible pentimenti, signs of reworked areas in the paint layer where the artist covered the original paintwork with a revision. Recalling the overlapping color planes of Picasso, Braque, and Stuart Davis, John D. Graham’s style is characteristic of the Cubist influence on American painting in the 1930s. The work’s title, which includes the Latin word vox, meaning “voice or oral statement,” together with the visual suggestion of a human figure in the act of speaking, resonates with Graham’s belief that art originates partially from humans’ universal longing for communication.
Geography: 
Made in New York, New York, United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Provenance: 

Gift of the artist, probably ca. 1935-36

Bibliography: 

Ruth L. Bohan et al., The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, ed. Jennifer Gross, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 174, 194, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.