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Harry Rand

(b New York, March 14, 1903; d Easthampton, NY, March 4, 1974).

American painter and sculptor. One of the few members of the New York School born in New York, Gottlieb studied at the Art Students League under Robert Henri and John Sloan in 1920–21. His teachers communicated a dark brushy approach to painting that, although highly unfashionable at a time when Cubism ruled modernity, nevertheless established the defining characteristics of what became Abstract Expressionism. The next year Gottlieb travelled through France and Germany, studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, schooling that may have re-enforced an otherwise reactionary approach to painting. Following his return to New York in 1923, he attended the Parsons School of Design and Cooper Union Institute. The most widely travelled of the New York painters (rivalled only by Franz Kline), having been to Paris, Munich, and Berlin before even beginning advanced formal studies, Gottlieb was the least provincial of his colleagues. The breadth of his training and art-historical knowledge served him well in his own teaching, his principal means of support during the mid-1930s. His first one-man exhibition was in ...

Article

Joan Marter

(b Alexandria, Egypt, May 4, 1913; d Easthampton, NY, Dec 30, 2003).

American sculptor. Lassaw’s parents were Russian, but he spent his childhood in Egypt, where he attended a French lycée. In 1921 he immigrated with his family to New York, where he began his artistic training with traditional clay modelling at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and in 1927 at the Clay Club. In 1931–2 he attended evening classes at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design. After modelling clay figures, in 1933 he turned to abstract sculpture, and was among the first American sculptors to do so in the 1930s. Early open-space constructions such as Sculpture in Steel (1938; New York, Whitney) combine biomorphic elements with Constructivist methods. The leaflike elements suspended from a metal bar seem indebted to Alberto Giacometti’s Surrealist sculptures of the 1930s.

Lassaw studied the welded constructions of Julio González and Pablo Picasso, which were illustrated in French periodicals, and he was attracted to their openwork compositions in industrial metals. While Lassaw’s earliest constructions were made of reinforced plaster on pipe and wire armatures, by ...

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

(b Asheville, NC, April 10, 1924; d Port Clyde, ME, Jan 5, 2010).

American painter and sculptor. He served in the US Air Force from 1942 to 1946 and after his discharge took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. There he was taught by Ilya Bolotowsky, learning about Neo-plasticism and Mondrian; he also had one course with Albers family, §1, whom he found rigid and doctrinaire but from whom he learnt about Bauhaus theories. During this period he also developed an interest in Paul Klee’s work, especially in his use of colour. In 1948, again under the G.I. Bill, Noland travelled to Paris. There he studied sculpture in Ossip Zadkine’s studio and, guided by him, also painted, though Zadkine’s Cubist aesthetic seemed a little old-fashioned to him after his Bauhaus training. While in Paris he also saw paintings by Picasso, Miró, and Matisse and in 1949 had his first one-man show at the Galerie Raymond Creuze....

Article

W. Jackson Rushing

(b St Paul, MN, June 8, 1916; d New York, Oct 25, 1992).

American painter, sculptor, and photographer. His father, Nathaniel Pousette-Dart (1886–1965), was a painter and critic. Pousette-Dart grew up near Valhalla, NY, and moved to New York in 1936, where, as a self-taught artist, he had his first one-man show in 1941. He taught at the New School for Social Research (1959–61), the School of Visual Arts (1964), and Columbia University (1968–9), all in New York; at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY (1970–74), and at the Art Students League, New York (1980–85).

Pousette-Dart’s early paintings, typified by Desert (1940; New York, MOMA), are a synthesis of Cubism, the organic Surrealism of Miró, archaic pictographs, and indigenous American and African art. The zoomorphs, totemic forms, and elemental signs of his early paintings and sculptures are related to an interest in a Jungian primal consciousness. The youngest of the Abstract Expressionists, he was the first to paint on a heroic scale, as in ...

Article

Karen Wilkin

(Roland)

(b Decatur, IN, March 9, 1906; d nr Bennington, VT, May 23, 1965).

American sculptor, painter, and draughtsman. Virtually self-taught as a sculptor, David Smith liked to say that he ‘belonged’ with painters. His art training began when he moved to New York in 1926 and, on the advice of his future wife, the sculptor Dorothy Dehner (1908–94), he enrolled at the Art Students League (ASL; 1927–32) to study painting and drawing. There he had his first exposure to advanced modernist art. Smith’s early friendship with painters such as Adolph Gottlieb and Milton Avery was reinforced during the Depression of the 1930s, when he participated in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project in New York. These relationships endured even after the Smiths moved to Bolton Landing, NY, near Lake George, in 1940.

Probably the most significant of Smith’s early connections was with the painter, collector, and connoisseur John Graham, who provided Smith with information about the latest European art, something in short supply in New York at the time. Through Graham, Smith met Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and Willem de Kooning. Graham also introduced the Smiths to African sculpture and later guided them through Paris on their first European trip in ...