Morris Hirshfield Girl in a Mirror 1940

  • Not on view

Hirshfield painted Girl in a Mirror after seeing The Dream (1910), by Henri Rousseau, another self-taught artist, here at The Museum of Modern Art. Hirshfield was greatly influenced by the painting, but he was dissatisfied with Rousseau's treatment of the female figure, finding its contours overly rounded, and he proposed a different type of nude in response. In this work a woman stands facing a mirror that, instead of reflecting the front of her body, shows her back. The symmetry of the doubled body shapes, the highly stylized flowers at the woman’s feet, and the ambiguously rendered interior space, with no clear distinction between wall and floor, work together to form a kind of surface pattern across the canvas. Though Hirshfield did not paint from live models, he was particularly interested in the anatomical details of the female figure and felt his renderings were "better than a camera could do."

Gallery label from 2011.
Additional text

In 1939 art collector and dealer Sidney Janis stumbled upon a painting by Morris Hirshfield tucked out of view in a New York gallery. He immediately asked to borrow two works by the artist to include in the exhibition Contemporary Unknown American Painters, which he was organizing for The Museum of Modern Art. This was the first public exposure for Hirshfield, a self-taught painter who had only begun making art after retiring at age sixty-five from a career in textile and shoe manufacturing. In 1941, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., MoMA's founding director, acquired Tiger and Girl in a Mirror for the Museum, and he organized a monographic exhibition of Hirshfield's work at MoMA two years later. In its early years the Museum was committed to collecting and exhibiting the work of self-taught artists, exploring and bringing to the public what Barr considered to be a "tributary of one of the main streams of modern taste."

Gallery label from 2011.
Oil on canvas
40 1/8 x 22 1/4" (101.9 x 56.5 cm)
Object number
© 2023 Estate of Morris Hirshfield/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Painting and Sculpture

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