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Article

Kenneth W. Prescott

(b Erie, PA, May 23, 1930).

American painter, printmaker and sculptor. He trained at the Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, OH (1948–53), and under Albers family, §1 at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture in New Haven, CT (1953–5). In his paintings of the late 1940s and early 1950s he depicted everyday city life, as in The Bridge (1950; artist’s priv. col., see Lunde, pl. 66). In 1957 he moved to New York, where from 1957 to 1958 he worked as a conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and from 1959 to 1961 as a silver designer for Tiffany and Co. During this period he began to produce abstract paintings, using either organic or geometric repeated forms, as in Winter Recipe (1958; New York, Mr and Mrs David Evins priv. col., see Lunde, pl. 100). These led in the early 1960s to asymmetric and imperfectly geometric works, such as ...

Article

Henry Adams

(b Neosho, MO, April 15, 1889; d Kansas City, MO, Jan 19, 1975).

American painter, illustrator, and lithographer. One of the most controversial personalities in American art, both in his lifetime and today, Thomas Hart Benton was a key figure in the American Regionalist movement of the 1930s, when he focused on working-class American subject-matter and was outspoken in his denunciation of European modern painting. Today he is best remembered for this phase of his life, and much criticized because of it. But Benton’s long career is not easily reduced to a single moment or achievement: his legacy was more complex. As a young struggling artist in Paris and New York, he was a leading American modernist and abstractionist, and in his early maturity he became the teacher and lifelong father figure for Jackson Pollock, the most famous of the Abstract Expressionists. He was also a major American writer, who wrote on art and whose autobiography of 1936 became a best-seller. He was also a notable figure in American music who collected American folk songs and devised a new form of harmonica notation that is still in use....

Article

Cécile Whiting

(b Philadelphia, Dec 7, 1892; d New York, June 24, 1964).

American painter and printmaker (see fig.). He was born into an artistic family: his parents studied with Thomas Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and his father was the art editor at the Philadelphia Press, a newspaper that included among its employees the Robert Henri circle of artist–reporters. Davis studied art under Henri in New York between 1909 and 1912. His earliest works, which chronicle urban life in the streets, saloons and theatres, are painted with the dark palette and thickly applied brushstrokes typical of the Ashcan school style inspired by Henri. Davis also published illustrations in the left-wing magazine The Masses between 1913 and 1916, and in The Liberator, which succeeded it in the 1920s.

With his contribution of five watercolours Davis was one of the youngest exhibitors at the Armory Show, the international exhibition of modern art that opened in New York in 1913...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 1905, in Pendleton (Oregon); died July 1970, in Long Island.

Painter, sculptor, engraver.

Action Painting, Post-painterly Abstraction.

American Abstract Artists (AAA).

John Millard Ferren worked as an artisan sculptor in San Francisco after initial studies in Los Angeles. He only began to paint in ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 25 June 1923, in San Mateo (California); died 4 November 1994, in Santa Monica (California).

Painter (including gouache), watercolourist, lithographer, sculptor.

Post-painterly Abstraction.

Sam Francis studied medicine and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Called up during the war, he served in the USA Army Air Corps ...

Article

Anna Moszynska

(b San Mateo, CA, June 25, 1923; d Santa Monica, CA, Nov 4, 1994).

American painter and printmaker. Following an accident leading to spinal tuberculosis while serving in the US Army Air Corps, he started to paint for distraction in 1944, studying privately under David Park in 1947. He subsequently relinquished his earlier medical studies in favour of painting, completing his BA (1949) and MA (1950) at the University of California at Berkeley. During this period he experimented with different styles of painting, notably Surrealism and the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and particularly Clyfford Still. His own style emerged in 1949–50; in Opposites (1950; Tokyo, Idemitsu Mus. A.), for example, dripping, corpuscular shapes painted in fluid red circulate freely around the canvas, indicating what was to become a perennial concern with ‘ceaseless instability’. With its sensitivity to sensuous colour and light, Francis’s work was already showing very different concerns from the expressive iconography and energy of many of the Abstract Expressionists....

Article

Anna Moszynska

(b San Mateo, CA, June 25, 1923; d Santa Monica, CA, Nov 4, 1994).

American painter and printmaker. Following an accident leading to spinal tuberculosis while serving in the US Army Air Corps, Francis started to paint for distraction in 1944, studying privately under David Park in 1947. He subsequently relinquished his earlier medical studies in favor of painting, completing his BA (1949) and MA (1950) at the University of California at Berkeley. During this period he experimented with different styles of painting, notably Surrealism and the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and particularly Clyfford Still. His own style emerged in 1949–50; in Opposites (1950; Tokyo, Idemitsu Mus. A.), for example, dripping, corpuscular shapes painted in fluid red circulate freely around the canvas, indicating what was to become a perennial concern with “ceaseless instability.” With its sensitivity to sensuous color and light, Francis’s work was already showing very different concerns from the expressive iconography and energy of many of the Abstract Expressionists....

Article

American, 20th century, female.

Born 12 December 1928, in New York. Died 27 December 2011, Darien, Connecticut.

Painter, lithographer.

Action Painting, Colour Field Painting, Post-painterly Abstraction.

Second School of New York.

Helen Frankenthaler was a pupil of Rufino Tamayo at the Dalton School, New York, and of Paul Feeley at Bennington College. In 1949, she attended Meyer Shapiro's courses at Columbia University and, in 1950, Hans Hofmann's summer school in Provincetown. In 1958, she married Robert Motherwell....

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Active from 1948 to 1954 in France.

Born 31 May 1923, in Newburgh (New York).

Painter, sculptor, engraver.

Post-painterly Abstraction.

Ellsworth Kelly attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. In 1943, he was called up and sketched views of the French countryside and Paris while taking part in the Liberation. Back in the USA in 1945, he studied under Karl Zerbe at the Boston Museum School. He returned to France and enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris under the GI bill. He stayed on for six years, getting to know Jean Arp, Georges Vantongerloo, Michel Seuphor, Brancusi, Picabia, Magnelli, Giacometti, Miró and Calder. In 1954, he returned to New York....

Article

Patterson Sims

(b Newburgh, NY, May 31, 1923).

American painter, sculptor, and printmaker. He was one of the major practitioners of abstract art in the USA after World War II; as early as the 1950s he developed an individual approach that influenced the course of Minimal art, colour field painting, hard-edge painting, and Post-painterly Abstraction without becoming fully a part of any of these movements (see fig.). He was encouraged at high school by a sympathetic art teacher, although his parents were reluctant for him to be an artist and agreed to support only his training in the technical arts, which he pursued at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York (1941–2). In 1943 he was inducted in the US Army where, at his request, he was assigned to the camouflage unit. In 1944 he travelled to Europe, where a short stay in Paris inspired him to return to France at the end of the decade. Following his military discharge (...

Article

American, 20th century, female.

Born 1904, in Litchfield (Connecticut); died 1971, in New York.

Painter, engraver.

American Abstract Artists (AAA).

Alice Trumbull Mason was one of the founder members of the American Abstract Artists. She was elected President of this highly significant group in 1961...

Article

Robert Saltonstall Mattison

(b Aberdeen, WA, Jan 24, 1915; d Princetown, MA, July 16, 1991).

American painter, printmaker, and editor. A major figure of the Abstract Expressionist generation (see Abstract Expressionism), in his mature work he encompassed both the expressive brushwork of action painting and the breadth of scale and saturated hues of colour field painting, often with a marked emphasis on European traditions of abstraction.

Motherwell was sent to school in the dry climate of central California to combat severe asthmatic attacks and developed a love for the broad spaces and bright colours that later emerged as essential characteristics of his abstract paintings. His later concern with themes of mortality can likewise be traced to his frail health as a child. From 1932 he studied literature, psychology, and philosophy at Stanford University, CA, and encountered in the poetry of the French Symbolists an expression of moods that dispensed with traditional narrative. He paid tribute to these writers in later paintings such as ...

Article

David Anfam

(b New York, Jan 29, 1905; d New York, July 4, 1970).

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, and writer. He was a major exponent of Abstract Expressionism whose reductive idiom employing large chromatic expanses exerted a considerable impact on abstract art after World War II. His writings and pronouncements also contributed to the accompanying theoretical debates during and after the 1960s about meaning in non-figurative expression.

After studies at the Art Students League, New York, in 1922 and 1929 Newman destroyed most of his basically realistic initial output and stopped painting by about 1939–40. He explained that the world historical crisis then had rendered traditional subject-matter and styles invalid, necessitating the search for a new, awe-inspiring content appropriate to the moment. A series of essays and catalogue introductions throughout the 1940s reiterated this aesthetic quest. Their polemical stance focused upon the need for a break with outworn European traditions (including such native continuations as American Scene painting), chaos as a wellspring of human creativity, and the irrelevance of beauty in times of terror. Instead, he resurrected the venerable concept of the Sublime for a metaphysical ‘art which through symbols will catch the basic truth of life which is its sense of tragedy’ (‘The Plasmic Image’, unpublished essay, ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 14 March 1923, in Brooklyn (New York); died 1976, in New York.

Painter, collagist, printmaker, experimental film. Figures, abstraction.

Figurative Expressionism.

Earle Montrose Pilgrim was a Caribbean-American artist, experimental filmmaker, and jewelry designer. Pilgrim’s parents, Leon and Amy, were born in the British West Indies and settled in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant where they raised Pilgrim and his sister. Pilgrim was a rebellious youth who was expelled from high school in his sophomore year for not wearing the regulation school uniform. Instead of completing his high school education, Pilgrim took an apprenticeship with a printmaker, which was instrumental in his venture into the arts. In 1943, during World War II, Pilgrim joined the US Army and wrote for the Army newspaper, Yank. Pilgrim’s rebelliousness eventually led him to be court-martialled for his refusal to listen to a white officer.

After the war, Pilgrim returned to New York, and studied at the Art Students League as well as with jewelry maker Sam Kramer. In the summer of ...

Article

Marco Livingstone

(Milton Ernest)

(b Port Arthur, TX, Oct 22, 1925; d Captiva Island, FL, May 12, 2008).

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer, and performance artist. While too much of an individualist ever to be fully a part of any movement, he acted as an important bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop art and can be credited as one of the major influences in the return to favour of representational art in the USA. As iconoclastic in his invention of new techniques as in his wide-ranging iconography of modern life, he suggested new possibilities that continued to be exploited by younger artists throughout the latter decades of the 20th century.

Rauschenberg studied at Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design from 1947 to 1948 under the terms of the GI Bill before travelling to Paris, where he attended the Académie Julian for a period of about six months. On reading about the work of Josef Albers he returned to the USA to study from autumn 1948 to spring ...

Article

American, 20th century, male.

Born 12 May 1936, in Malden (Massachusetts).

Painter, collage artist, sculptor, printmaker, mixed media.

Colour Field Painting, Post-painterly Abstraction, Minimal Art.

Frank Stella studied painting at the Phillips Academy in Andover and history at Princeton University, graduating in 1958. In 1959 he moved to New York, and took part in his first major exhibition, Sixteen Americans, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The following year he held his first solo exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, showing his earliest irregularly shaped canvases. Stella visited Europe in 1961, staying mainly in Britain, Spain, and France, before moving on to Morocco. In the same year he married the art critic Barbara Rose. In 1982, he spent a year in Rome at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1983, he was appointed a professor at Harvard University and gave a series of lectures there....

Article

Constance W. Glenn

(b Malden, MA, May 12, 1936).

American painter and printmaker. In his career he was an innovator, rather than responding to the innovations of others, and he often confounded his peers. He suggested that his painting was significantly shaped by the fact that he was among the first generation of artists for whom the rightful existence of abstraction was assumed, and he steadfastly maintained that it was the only post-war idiom capable of sustaining the highest ambitions for painting.

In 1950 Stella entered the Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, where he studied art history and painting; it was here that he realized that he had no interest in representational painting. Stella continued his studies in history at Princeton University (BA, 1958). At this time he was painting loose, gestural abstractions in the tradition of the New York School. He was already highly regarded by his professors, yet he did not seriously entertain the idea of a career in the arts. He kept in touch with developments in New York and in ...

Article

Ruth L. Bohan

(b Belostok, Russia [now Białystok, Poland], April 18, 1881; d Great Neck, NY, Oct 4, 1961).

American painter, printmaker, sculptor, and writer of Russian birth. He was born of Orthodox Jewish parents and in 1891 immigrated with his family to America. After settling in Brooklyn, NY, Weber attended the Pratt Institute (1898–1900), where he studied art theory and design under Arthur Wesley Dow. Dow’s extensive knowledge of European and Far Eastern art history, together with his theories of composition, made a lasting impression on Weber. Weber was in Paris from 1905 to 1908 and studied briefly at the Académie Julian. He developed a close friendship with Henri Rousseau and helped to organize a class with Henri Matisse as its instructor. Visits to the ethnographic collections in the Trocadéro and other Parisian museums extended his sensitivity to non-Western art, while travels through Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands broadened his knowledge of the Old Masters.

For several years following his return to America in January 1909...