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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

The Temptation of St. Anthony, #2

Photo: Paul Macapia

The Temptation of St. Anthony, #2


John Covert

Born Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1882; died Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1960

"Whirled by vertiginous visions"—that is how one writer described the hermit Saint Anthony as he was portrayed in the novel Temptation of Saint Anthony by the 19th-century French author Gustave Flaubert, which was a favorite of modern artists and writers. That is an apt description, too, of Covert's abstraction on Saint Anthony's famous struggles of the soul. The efforts of Saint Anthony to understand the wicked ways of the world would have been especially meaningful to Covert who, after war broke out in Europe in 1914, was preoccupied by thoughts of the depravity of human beings. Is his abstraction a look into the abyss, or is it an escape into the world of the pure imagination?

Oil on paperboard
18 1/2 x 18 15/16 in. 47 x 48.1 cm)
Gift of Paul Denby Mackie in memory of Kathleen Lawler and Nona Lawler Mackie
Provenance: The artist; to Kathleen Lawler (1881-1952), probably 1923; by bequest to her sister, Nona Lawler Mackie, Bellevue, Washington, 1952; by bequest to her husband, Paul Denby Mackie, Bellevue, Washington
Photo: Paul Macapia
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryDallas, Texas, Dallas Museum for Contemporary Art, American Genius in Review, No. 1, May 11 - June 19, 1960. Text by Douglas MacAgy. Cat. no. 23, reproduced.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, University of New Mexico Art Museum and the Junior League of Albuquerque, Cubism: Its Impact in the U.S.A., 1910-1930, 1967 (San Antonio, Texas, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art; Los Angeles, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, no dates given). Cat. no. 6, p. 20, reproduced p. 19, fig. 6.

Wilmington, Delaware, Delaware Art Museum, Avant-Garde Painting and Sculpture in America 1910-25, Apr. 4 - May 18, 1975. Text by William Inness Homer et al. No cat. no, p. 172.

New York, American Federation of Arts, Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz, Duchamp, and the New York Avant-Garde (Santa Fe, New Mexico, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Jan. 24 - Apr. 20, 2003; Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center, May 9 - Aug. 1, 2003; Chicago, Illinois, Terra Museum of American Art, Aug. 29 - Nov. 30, 2003). Text by Debra Bricker Balkan. No cat. no., listed p. 161, reproduced p. 38.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Modern in America, July 8, 2004 - Feb. 27, 2005. No catalogue.
Published ReferencesAskew, Rual, "Bypassed Artists to Gain Fresh Study," The Dallas Morning News, April 26, 1960: Section 1, p. 12.

Askew, Rual. "Mementos Current and From Recall," The Dallas Morning News, May 15, 1960: Section 5, p. 4.

Davidson, Abraham A. "Two from the Second Decade: Manierre Dawson and John Covert," Art in America 63, no. 5 (September-October 1975): p. 54, reproduced p. 55.

Klein, Michael. John Covert, 1882-1960. Exh. cat. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1976; p. 36, reproduced.

Lycette, Diana Yates. "John Covert, American Dadaist," M.A. thesis, University of Washington, 1973, pp. 20-21, 34, reproduced plate 11.

Strazdes, Dianna. "John Covert, 1882-1960," in American Paintings and Sculpture to 1945 in the Carnegie Museum of Art. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1992; p. 148.

Mazow, Leo G., "John Covert, Tetraphilia, and the Game of Time" Winterthur Portfolio 41, no. 1 (2007): p. 26, reproduced fig. 5.

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