Berman, Eugene (1899-1972)
Sunset - Medusa
(North Carolina Museum of Art, USA)
In Sunset (Medusa) the female figure, clothed in velvet and lace, kneels grandly on a shallow stage before a ruined wall—an ominous setting for this eerie and uncertain drama. The heightened clarity of the image as much as the trompe l’oeil monogram at the bottom edge suggest Northern Renaissance art, specifically that of the German master Albrecht Dürer. According to Emily Genauer, writing in Art Digest in 1949, Berman explained that the “curious, spattered, almost mouldy surface” of his paintings symbolized “all the bullet-holes with which the world’s walls have been peppered during [World War II], as well as our whole moral and spiritual degeneration.” The beauty of the writhing locks of Berman’s Medusa, modeled by the film actress Ona Munson (later Berman’s wife), suggests a comic, Freudian interpretation of the snake-haired Gorgon of Greek mythology, whose horrific features turned men to stone.