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La Serveuse (86.66)

La Serveuse
Duilio Barnabè
(Italian, 1914-1961)
La Serveuse
ca. 1960
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Schriever

Director's Comments
One of my first lessons as a museum director was that works may speak profoundly to some and to others not at all.  While Barnabè's La Serveuse has great meaning and appeal to me, it has rarely been shown at the Museum of Art and Archaeology.  It remains, however, among my personal favorites.

La Serveuse is classic Barnabè, pure forms stripped of non-essential detail, spare human figures depicted against the blue or gray backgrounds he favored.  He emphasized hands rather than faces, and focused on figural aspects common to all rather than unique to individuals.  Instead of draping over the figure, clothes are part of the integral human form, just another aspect of the body's architectural volume depicted through pure geometrical forms.

Barnabè died young; in 1960 he and his wife narrowly escaped death when their car drove off the side of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Barnabè was in the midst of profound doubts regarding his artistic and personal future, and questions were raised regarding whether he had driven off the road intentionally.  One year later to the day - Barnabè's forty-seventh birthday - he was killed when his car swerved off the same stretch of road.

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