Fritz Ascher, Male Portrait in Red, c. 1915. White gouache over graphite, watercolour and black ink on paper, 10.5 x 8.7 in. (26.6 x 22 cm). Signed on lower right, “F Asch (cut)”. Private collection. Photo Malcolm Varon ©Bianca Stock

Male Portrait in Red, c. 1915

This is a very different sort of image, is it not? All face, and a very fat face at that—it’s been a long time since this man has missed a good meal—and bursting with color. Why the color red? What is the history of that particular hue in the history of art? How had it shifted slightly in the previous fifty years (compare, for instance, the use of red in almost any medieval or renaissance painting of “The Virgin and Child” with Paul Gauguin’s 1888 “Vision After the Sermon”—with this image). What else is distinctive about this face—its eyes, perhaps? What about them? What do they suggest about this character? What else do you find in this image-stuffing face?