Woman on Trapeze
135 cm x 95 cm (53 1/8 in. x 37 3/8 in.)
(Berlin, 1903 - 1972, Tallahassee, Florida)
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil and encaustic on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Michener Acquisitions Fund, 1969
Inspired by Zerbe’s brief travels with the Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1945, Woman on Trapeze raises provocative questions. The intrepid trapeze artist stares beyond the viewer from a bird’s-eye perspective high above the crowd below—so where are we? And why is the young woman’s expression so self-contained while her muscular body practically crashes into the viewer’s own? The acid green and strong contrasts of light and dark give the scene a surreal, even ominous, tone. Although normally a site of family entertainment, this circus vignette presents an unsettling mystery.