1938 - 1945

Among Hedda Sterne’s earliest exhibited work are her Papiers arrachés et interprétés. A unique adaptation of a Surrealist automatist technique, she would tear paper, let it fall, then interpret and develop the abstract forms using graphite. 

Sterne called Surrealism "the greatest influence in my life when I was young." Growing up in Bucharest, Vienna, and Paris in the 1920s, Sterne closely followed the post-Dada movements of Constructivism and the developing Surrealist movement.  By the late 1930s and into the early 1940s, she was regularly exhibited within the Surrealist context, including the influential First Papers of Surrealism, organized by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton.  The language of Surrealism was, for Sterne, often a tool to explore the anxieties of WWII. Later collages made around the time of her escape from Europe to the U.S. reflect upheaval and destruction, using clippings from magazines.

Hedda Sterne's first widely exhibited group of paintings are her Memories of Romania series, which she began about a year after her escape from war-torn Europe to New York. By 1943, she had adopted a style inspired by children's drawing to depict places and events from her own childhood in Bucharest.

Hedda Sterne, Katsonarock (Portrait of V.X.), 1941, Pencil and gouache on Japanese paper mounted on paper, 60 x 40 in.

Archival photograph of collage by Hedda Sterne from the "Papiers Arrachés et Interprétés" series, c. 1938

Hedda Sterne, Untitled, 1941, Gouache on paper, 18 3/4 in. x 25 1/4 in. (47.63 cm x 64.14 cm)

Hedda Sterne, Untitled, 1941, Collage, 15 1/2 in. x 11 7/8 in.

Hedda Sterne, Violin Lesson, 1944, oil on panel, 23 5/8 x 19 3/4 in., Collection of Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. Alfred Wilner, 60.38.1

Archival photograph of painting by Hedda Sterne from the "Memories of Romania" series, c. 1943

Archival photograph of painting by Hedda Sterne from the "Memories of Romania" series, c. 1943

Hedda Sterne, Open Enclosures, 1943, Egg tempera on panel, 10 in. x 8 in.

Hedda Sterne, Portrait of Saul [Steinberg], 1943, Graphite on paper, 12 in. x 8 3/4 in. (30.48 cm x 22.23 cm)

Hedda Sterne, Untitled, 1941, Collage, 12 7/8 in. x 9 7/8 in.

Archival photograph of collage by Hedda Sterne from the "Papiers Arrachés et Interprétés" series, c. 1938

Hedda Sterne, Untitled, 1940, Pencil and Japanese paper mounted on paper, 29 3/4 x 51 1/2 in.

Hedda Sterne, Untitled, c. 1941, Gouache on paper, 21 1/4 in. x 18 1/2 in. (53.98 cm x 46.99 cm)

Hedda Sterne, Untitled, 1941, Collage, 14 3/4 in. x 11 3/4 in.

Hedda Sterne, Untitled, 1941, Collage, 16 in. x 12 7/8 in.

Hedda Sterne, G.D. [John Graham], 1943, Oil on canvas, 39 x 31 in.

Hedda Sterne, Chandelier, 1945, Oil on canvas, 38 in. x 32 in.

Hedda Sterne, Self-Portrait, c. 1938 - 1940, Ink and graphite on paper, 11 x 10 1/4 in., Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Hedda Sterne, Self-Portrait, c. 1940, Pencil on paper, 12 x 9 in.