In November of 1897, a twenty-nine-year-old Alfred Maurer sailed for Paris, eager to break away from the routine of his commercial work in New York to study in the art capital of the world. Though he took classes briefly at the Académie Julian, it was the non-academic aspects of Parisian life and the expatriate community which appealed to his artistic interests. During these critical years preceding the advent of modernism, Maurer encountered a wide range of influences, from the bravura brushwork of fellow American William Merritt Chase to the decorative taste of the French Post-Impressionist Pierre Bonnard. He was particularly responsive to James McNeil Whistler's anti-academic aesthetic in which tonalist harmonies and asymmetrical arrangements broke from tradition.
According to Stacey Epstein, "Solitary female figures were a favorite motif of Maurer's during these years. Many of his figure paintings portray single figures in plain interiors, which are sparsely decorated with an occasional mirror or painting. Poetic evocations such as this are less about the sitter's identity than they are about unity and harmony, the nature of painting itself, and Maurer's embrace of abstract expression" (Alfred H. Maurer: Aestheticism to Modernism, p. 16). During a return visit home in 1901, Maurer won the prestigious Carnegie prize for An Arrangement (1901, Whitney Museum of Art), a Whistlerian composition of a female model set amongst Asian studio props. The favorable reviews in newspapers and periodicals accompanying the award evigorated Maurer's optimism and outlook for the future.
When Maurer returned to Paris in May of 1902, he found his subjects along the streets, in the bustling night clubs of the Latin Quarter and the lively theatres like the Moulin Rouge, but also in the late night quietude of deserted cafés. Along with other expatriate artists and writers, Maurer was known to frequent Lavenue's Café d'Harcourt and Café du Dôme, where he would make sketches and take notes for paintings he later worked up in his studio. Café scenes were popular subjects with Europeans and Americans alike, and Maurer's melancholy views of everyday life recall works like Edgar Degas' Glass of Absinthe (1876, The Louvre). In The Rendezvous, the artist, as observer, remains distant from the scene. Though there are empty chairs in the café, the viewer is not invited in. The woman in the foreground is turned away - any hint at her identity obscured by her veil. She is typical of Maurer's enigmatic women; neither relaxed nor completely comfortable.
Oil on canvas
Alfred Henry Maurer
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, One Hundredth Anniversary Exhibition, 1905
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Walker Art Center; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, A. H. Maurer, 1868-1932, September-December 1949, no. 12, p. 31
36 1/4 by 32 in. (92 by 81.3 cm)
Elizabeth McCausland, A.H. Maurer, New York, 1951, pp. 43, 75, 272
Nick Madormo, "The Early Career of Alfred Maurer: Paintings of Popular Entertainments," American Art Journal, Winter 1983, pp. 4-34, illustrated p. 26
Hollis Taggart Galleries, Alfred H. Maurer: Aestheticism to Modernism, New York, 1999, p. 22
William Merritt Chase, New York, 1905
Mrs. Roy Megargel, New York , by 1949
By descent in the family to the present owner