Peter Schjeldahl at The New Yorker:
It is is a good time to take Florine Stettheimer seriously. The occasion is a retrospective of the New York artist, poet, designer, and Jazz Age saloniste, at the Jewish Museum, titled “Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry.” The impetus is an itch to rethink old orders of merit in art history. It’s not that Stettheimer, who died in 1944, at the age of seventy-three, needs rediscovering. She is securely esteemed—or adored, more like it—for her ebulliently faux-naïve paintings of party scenes and of her famous friends, and for her four satirical allegories of Manhattan, which she called “Cathedrals”: symbol-packed phantasmagorias of Fifth Avenue, Broadway, Wall Street, and Art, at the Metropolitan Museum.
She painted in blazing primary colors, plus white and some accenting black, with the odd insinuating purple. Even her blues smolder. Greens are less frequent; zealously urbane, Stettheimer wasn’t much for nature, except, surreally, for the glories of the outsized cut flowers that barge in on her indoor scenes. She painted grass yellow. She seemed an eccentric outlier to American modernism, and appreciations of her often run to the camp—it was likely in that spirit that Andy Warhol called her his favorite artist. But what happens if, clearing our minds and looking afresh, we recast the leading men she pictured, notably Marcel Duchamp, in supporting roles? What’s the drama when Stettheimer stars?
Born in 1871, in Rochester, New York, Stettheimer was the fourth of five children of a banker, who ran out on the family when she was still a child, although they remained well off financially. The two oldest offspring married. Florine and her sisters Carrie and Ettie—“the Stetties,” as they were known—never did. They lived with their mother, Rosetta, first on the Upper West Side and, later, near Carnegie Hall.