What is it?
Robert von Neumann (Roshtock, Germany 1888–1976 West Bend)
Weighing the Catch
Oil on canvas
33 ⅜ x 25 ¼ in.
Gifted 2019, Terrie, Mark, Larry, and Ronald Temkin in memory of Blair Temkin and Leah Temkin
About the Work
Robert von Neumann enjoyed a lengthy career as one of the most successful painters and influential teachers of the early twentieth century in Milwaukee. Von Neumann’s work is a paradigmatic example of Social Regionalism, which came to prominence in the 1930s shortly after the artist arrived in the United States from Rostock, Germany. Contrary to the abstractions of theory-driven Modernism, Regionalists celebrated common people and humble scenes from everyday life. Von Neumann was especially enamored with laborers, in particular fishermen, hard at work. This passion may have been influenced by his early life in Rostock, an important port city.
Weighing the Catch is a colorful, lively composition. The active brushwork engagingly enhances the activity of the three men as they record the fish they have landed. The strong figures are positioned so that they simultaneously offer the stability of a triangle while the large opening behind the sole man facing the viewer opens the composition up to light and the world outside. The three fish echo the men’s dynamic, zig-zagging visual path. Von Neumann’s artful treatment of the scene lends the fishermen a heroic quality and casts a noble light on their labor.