Hercules I is the first in a series of three Hercules paintings that Manierre Dawson completed in the wake of his visit to the Armory Show in Chicago. He was so taken by Marcel Duchamp’s 1911-12 work, Nude (Study), Sad Young Man on a Train (Nu [esquisse], Jeune homme triste dans un train), that he purchased it.
"Since I left Holabird and Roche I’ve had a glorious time painting. Hanging over the mantle in the library is the Duchamp. I am having a good look at it. These three paintings I am doing now Hercules I, II, III may show D’s influence. I am contemplating more colorful things to come.”¹
Like Dawson’s recent works of abstract figurative paintings based on works by European Masters composition and structure, he seems to be challenging himself, searching for something he was seeing in the Duchamp and attempting to understand.
Hercules I is composed of analogous colors: browns, taupes, and soft grays. We see Hercules striding forward in a three-quarter view. There is a feminine quality to the body, facial profile, and hair. And whereas Duchamp’s Sad Young Man saunters through the frame, Dawson’s Hercules seems to shatter his/her surroundings as though breaking through glass.
¹ From 4/04/13 entry in Dawson Journal, Manierre Dawson (1887-1969) A Catalogue Raisonné; p. 323