In a first of its kind exhibition, two historically critical, if less popularly recognized, painters of the 20th century – ROLPH SCARLETT and WALTER QUIRT - will be featured in an important exhibition comprised of approximately twenty-five works on canvas and paper.
Scarlett and Quirt were influential painters who have often been labeled by a specific art-historic style or movement in mid-century New York: Scarlett as a non-objective painter and Quirt as a pioneer of Social Surrealism. But they retained a freedom of artistic expression, prior to and following these periods, that transcended the labels and is often overlooked and even ignored. This exhibition presents work eschewing each artist’s more recognizable style in favor of less known but highly significant paintings that vary from abstraction to figurative expressionism.
Canadian-American painter, Rolph Scarletts (1889-1984) brush with critical and historic success began in 1939 when his work was discovered by Baroness Hilla Rebay, founding director of Solomon Guggenheim’s first museum, The Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York. He became the third most highly collected artist of the Guggenheim collection after Vasily Kandinsky and Rudolf Bauer, and maintained a position as both artist and a lecturer in the museum. But upon Solomons death in 1949, the Guggenheim family banished Ms. Rebay from the museum, and most of the non-objective collection went into storage, including Scarlett’s. He recounted this period in a bittersweet memoir, The Baroness, The Mogul, And The Forgotten History Of The First Guggenheim Museum: As Told By One Who Was There.
American painter, Walter Quirt (1902-1968) rose to prominence in New York in 1936 with his first solo exhibition at Julien Levy Gallery, the leading gallery for European avant-garde. Quirt impressed Levy and the critics with his integration of European Surrealism and Social Realism. Quirt maintained an artistic integrity, more concerned with emerging theories of painting than commercial success, and worked in several modes of abstraction. His work was included in seven of the Whitney Museum’s Annuals, and given a traveling retrospective in 1960 by the American Federation of Arts. But upon his death in 1968, his grief-stricken widow, Eleanor – unable to part with any of her husbands work – placed everything in storage, where it remained out of the public’s eye until her passing several years ago.
This exhibition marks the first time both of these important Modernists – now experiencing a posthumous revival of their legacies – are being exhibited together. Both artists were significant contributors to the canon of American Modern, enjoying seminal moments in its history and broad critical acclaim. Today their paintings are found in prestigious museum collections, including collectively the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the deYoung Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and more.