Image credits: Kuramstonev (Stanley Kunitz, Charles F. Ramsey, Louis K. Stone, Charles Evans), KuRamStoneEv Cooperative Project, Puzzlehead, ca. 1938, pastel, H.28 x W.20 inches. James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest.

Puzzlehead is a unique work of art found in the Michener’s collection. It is a result of a collaborative effort and was created by four artists.

In the 1930s, a group of modernist artists in Bucks County including Charles F. Ramsey, Louis Stone, and Charles Evans, formed the Cooperative Painting Project. Experimenting with expressive color, abstract forms, and modern concepts of creative design, this experimental group worked together for two years. They were inspired by the improvisational style of jazz, and they took turns and worked jointly to produce single works of abstract art. Each composition they created together was agreed upon at every stage of its development. The signature of the work changed based on who collaborated to create it. New Hope poet Stanley Kunitz joined them in the creation of this work, so this artwork has the signature combining all four artists, Kuramstonev. This work was also recently featured in the exhibition, From Impressionism to Modernism: The Lenfest Collection of American Art. 

Take a Closer Look!

  • What do you see in this painting? Discuss its elements.
  • Does this work convey unity? Why or why not?
  • Does it look like this work was created by four artists? Why or why not?
  • Even though this work was inspired by improvisation, does it look spontaneous or carefully planned? Why or why not?
  • What does this artwork remind you of? Why?

Have you worked on a project with more than one person? Sometimes it can be fun and sometimes it’s not easy. For a fun activity, find a few family members or friends. Just like the artists who created this work, create a poem together! Have one person write a line about this work, and then share it with the next person. Continue doing this until everyone in your group has had a chance. The first person must think about the opening line and the last person will need to conclude the poem. Or download the activity sheet below!

When you finish your poem, share it with us in the comment section below.

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