Charles N. Kitt was born in New Haven, Connecticut, where he lived and worked most of his life. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from YaleSchool of Art in 1943, and joined with the Army Air Corps in World War II. Around this time, he painted the present work—Mardi Gras—showing an advanced technique in egg tempera, which he had studied at Yale. The work was exhibited among masters of American modernism at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as part of Portrait of America: Artists for Victory, sponsored by Pepsi-Cola, the same year it was painted. The following year, Kitt was included in the annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design, represented by his painting Roof Tops. That year, he also became acquainted with Norman Rockwell, posing for sketches that would become the illustrator’s Maternity Waiting Room (1946). When Rockwell helped found theFamous Artists School, in 1948, Kitt joined, first as a student, and later as a teacher. He relocated to nearby Milford, Connecticut, where the correspondence school was based, and lived the rest of his life in the environs. The present work is a vibrant expression of the holiday of Mardi Gras, packing many symbols of jubilation into a fractious modernist composition.Harlequins and empty masks mingle with jack-in-the-box forms in a frenetic structure, deftly balanced by festive colors.
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