This kinetic and bold original oil on canvas depicts a moment from Katharine Dunham’s seminal avant garde dance revue Bal Negre. With its unique color palate and unexpected perspective, the painting evokes the excitement of the Hot Jazz modern dance which reached its peak at the moment the artist moved to the United States. Pal Fried was known for his unsurpassed ability to capture the emotion of dance, and this painting proves his mastery. Its portrayal of physicality and vanguard beauty of the innovative Dunham is unmatched. Known as the mother of black dance in America, Dunham was a critical figure in the development of modern dance, instilling the form with African American and Haitian vocabulary. Her 1946 tour of “Bal Negre” was her company’s most acclaimed work.
Pal Fried, (1893-1976), Hungarian American artist, was born in Budapest and studied at the Hungarian Academie under Professor Hugo Pohl and in Paris under Claude Monet and Lucien Simone. Under Pohl’s influence, he executed many portraits, nudes and Oriental scenes in pastel. He was also greatly influenced by the French Impressionist School of Renoir and Degas. His works are listed in the Fine Arts Book. Fried’s signature on his paintings was Fried Pal, last name first in the European manner. He is sometimes listed in auction catalogues and reference books erroneously under the letter “P”.
While traveling in Spain and Africa, Pal Fried widened and enriched his palette, which gave him mastery of light and movement. After returning to Paris, Fried concentrated on portraiture in which he also became a recognized master. He exhibited his work in Budapest. In 1947, after WW II, he emigrated to America where he taught at the Academy of Arts in New York and developed his own unique style and technique. In the 1950’s and 60’s, Pal Fried gained popularity while living and painting in Hollywood. He made the rounds and often painted high society women and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and the Gabor sisters. In New York, he painted portraits of Herbert Lehman (Governor and Senator from New York), Will Rogers and other notables.
Pal Fried died in New York City at his home, 1737 York Avenue, on March 6, 1976, at the age of 82. He died four days after the death of his beloved wife and frequent model, Eva.