Chinese Lantern

Lange--Chinese Lantern.jpg
LangeErna - Chinese Lantern.JPG
Erna Lange--cropped.jpg

Dublin Core


Chinese Lantern


An arrangement of dried stalks in a ceramic urn creates this dazzling play of colors and light. Its setting is a wooden table, Navaho-patterned weaving, and earth-colored walls; along with the bright light passing in through a curtain at left, the effect is one of the American southwest, whether the still life was painted there or not. The painting’s otherwise haphazard lines draw our eyes to one particular globe and its shadow at top center.

About the Artist: Born in Elizabeth, NJ, to German parents Lange attended school abroad before returning in 1916 to study art at the Cooper Union, the Art Students League, and the National Academy of Design. In 1923 Lange was the focus of a major controversy: her painting “Lament” was chosen by the Chaloner Foundation for a prize that allowed five years’ travel and study in Europe; newspapers announced that the “Girl Painter Wins $6,000 Prize Over Three Male Competitors.” Then an anonymous tip observed the close similarity between Lange’s painting and English artist James Williams’ work “The Lament,” published seven years previous. The award was revoked, although many observers were sympathetic to the process of unconscious assimilation—why would Lange have titled the painting as such if she had sought to hide anything? (“Tragic Likeness”). The Foundation’s underwriter also was supportive, and decided to grant her a trip in 1924, yet as Lange reported Chaloner “advised me to plead guilty. I therefore do so. I am very, very sorry, and I have suffered severely. I therefore ask the public to please try to forget the past and look at my work in Paris during the next five years as the proof of my sincere devotion to Art” (“Confession”). Given this potentially devastating episode, it’s remarkable how Lange persisted on to study (at the Academies Colarossi, Grand Chaumiere, Julian, and Billoul in Paris) and to produce vivid art. She became best known for her paintings of the American Southwest, having first traveled to Arizona in 1930. A 1931 solo show at the Argent Galleries suggested that “Erna Lange has taken much color and the drama and woven it into pictures, which add greatly to the artistic production of the country. Her clear vision and skillful handling of the medium equip her to record ably and with unusual understanding the moods of this one section of America wherein natural forces can still play a part in the lives of the people without disturbing their peace of mind.” Lange exhibited works in the 1936 and 1937 Woodstock WPA Expositions, and records indicate that her 1936 painting, “Winter Landscape,” was allocated to the NYS Board of Health. Lange moved near Phoenix permanently in 1940, where she opened her own gallery and taught painting. Almost all of Lange’s paintings are privately held, rather than displayed in museums.

Sources Consulted: “Girl Painter Wins $6,000 Prize Over Three Male Competitors” (Baltimore Sun 9 July 1923: 2); (“Tragic Likeness of Her Picture to Another’s,” San Francisco Chronicle 23 Sept. 1923: 6); “Confession,” Time 9 June 1924.


Lange, Erna, 1896-1984


Federal Art Project




Ritz, Abigail (photography)

Cooper, Ken (biography)


New Deal Gallery, Genesee Valley Council on the Arts

Object #FA18194


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Still image



Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Oil painting

Physical Dimensions

24 x 30 in.
Condition: cracked paint, surface dirt