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Abstract Expressionism
by Gary Comenas

abstract expressionism

| 1800-1899 | 1900-1909 | 1910-1919 | 1920-1924 | 1925-1927 | 1928-1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 |
| 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 (a) | 1945 (b) | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 (a) | 1948 (b) | 1949 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 |
| 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969 | 1970-1974 | 1975 - 1979 | 1980s+ |

1936

By 1936 there were more than 6,000 artists employed by the WPA. (MM27)

Exhibition of The Ten at the Municipal Art Gallery. Barnett Newman publishes The Answer. Arshile Gorky works on Newark Airport murals. Joan Miró at the Pierre Matisse Gallery. Adolph Gottlieb joins the Artists' Union and the WPA. Art dealer Julien Levy publishes Surrealism. Willem de Kooning moves to W. 22nd St. Willem de Kooning meets Mark Rothko. The American Abstract Artists group is formed. The First American Artists' Congress Against War and Fascism takes place. Cubism and Abstract Art exhibition takes place at The Museum of Modern Art. Mexican muralist David Siqueiros sets up a Laboratory of Modern Techniques in Art. Franz Kline moves to Westbourne Grove and paints Nijinksy. Franz Kline attends Heatherley's School of Fine Art and frequents the British Museum. The Artists' Union has a convention. Arshile Gorky paints Xhorkom (Khorkum). Franz Kline's flatmate leaves London for Singapore. Mark Rothko writes a book? Arshile Gorky drops Wyatt Davis. Barnett Newman gets married. Franz Kline is visited by his high school English teacher. Mark Rothko applies to TRAP - his WPA paintings include Untitled (Subway) and Untitled (Two Women at the Window). Jackson Pollock attends his brother's wedding. Arshile Gorky falls in love with artist Carinne West. Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston view José Clemente Orozco's mural The Epic of American Civilization. The Moscow Trials. Barnett Newman and wife return to New York from Maine and rent an apartment in Chelsea. Jackson Pollock has another car accident. John Ferren exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery. "New Horizons in American Art" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art includes work by Willem de Kooning, Stuart Davis, Balcomb Greene and Arshile Gorky. Jackson Pollock meets Becky Tarwater. Franz Kline's drawings are published in The Artist. "De Chirico, Paintings and Gouaches" exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. Arshile Gorky's sister Vartoosh and her husband Moorad move from Gorky's studio to Chicago. The Ten exhibit in Paris. The WPA requests a report from Gorky in regard to his airport mural. Jackson Pollock meets Lee Krasner.The Ten have a second exhibition at the Montross Gallery. "Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Martha Kinney leaves Franz Kline.

January 7, 1936: Exhibition of The Ten at the Municipal Art Gallery opens.

see The Ten: Nine Artists in Search of a Cause

The exhibition of The Ten (one of four groups exhibiting) took place at the inaugural show of the WPA-sponsored gallery located at 62 West 53rd Street. (AG18/RO101). It was a temporary location for the gallery which was located there from January 1936 to May 1937. In December 1937 The New York Times announced that "The Italian Renaissance art gallery which the late Thomas Fortune built to house his art treasures, and which has stood dark at East Sixty-seventh Street for a number of years, has been turned over to the Municipal Art Committee it was announced yesterday... The first of the exhibitions in the new gallery will be held later this month. Like the many exhibitions which were held at the temporary gallery, 62 West Fifty-third Street from January, 1936, to last May, it will be a group affair in which four organized groups will show their work at no cost to themselves." (RA/MO)

The temporary gallery closed in May 1937 after the building was declared unsafe due to the construction of the Sixth Avenue Subway. The New York Times reported on May 19, 1937 that "New Galleries will be opened within a few weeks at 50 West Fifty-seventh Street." It also noted that 82 groups of resident New York artists had exhibited at the temporary gallery since its inception in January 1936 - "without jury or expense." (CA)

Earl Sparling wrote in the January 6, 1936 issue of the New York World Telegram ("Workmen See Little Art in the Municipal Gallery"): "Workmen bustled today to get the temporary Municipal Art Gallery at 62 West 53rd Street for official inspection by Mayor La Guardia and other city officials... What seemed to attract the chief attention of the workmen was a Sitting Nude by Adolph Gottlieb... 'No, we don't like it,' said one of the workmen. 'Why couldn't he paint a good looking dame?'" (AG27n34)

A month after the Municipal Gallery opened in its temporary location, Stuart Davis criticised the city administration's for their slowness in taking up the idea, their original policy of excluding non-citizens and the lack of a "truly democratic management" of the gallery in a paper he presented to the American Artists' Congress in February.

Stuart Davis [from Why an Artists' Congress?]:

"Nearly two years ago prominent New York artists started a campaign through the Artists' Committee of Action for a Municipal Art Gallery to provide a badly needed outlet for the artists of this city.

When the city administration finally took up the idea, without recognition of the Artists' Committee of Action, it opened a gallery in a remodeled private house early in 1936, on a basis of discrimination against non-citizens and censorship of art disapproved by the administration. Such reactionary ideas could never have been introduced under a truly democratic management of the Municipal Gallery by the artists themselves, which the Artists' Committee of Action had repeatedly called for.

What's more, leading New York artists, together with the Artists' Union, showed that they would not stand for such practices by making a prompt and emphatic protest. The result was an immediate victory! Both citizenship and censorship clauses were speedily withdrawn..." (SD66)

See The Ten: Nine Artists in Search of a Cause

January 1936: Barnett Newman publishes The Answer - America's Civil Service Magazine.

Barnett Newman had first had the idea for a civil service magazine named the New York Wednesday Answer in 1933, but was unable to bring the project to fruition due to lack of advertisers. This time the magazine was to be called The Answer. A handwritten draft of a proposed column gave a list of recommended books, including Spinoza's Ethics, Plato's Republic and the writings of Russian anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin. Another list of "Books we condemn" included the complete works of Hegel, Marx and Lenin. Only one issue of The Answer was published. Newman also applied for a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship to write a book on the American civil service but is turned down. (MH)

January 1936: Arshile Gorky works on Newark Airport murals.

According to head of the Mural Division of the Federal Art Project, Burgoyne Diller, Gorky was reassigned from the Floyd Bennett Field mural project to the Newark Airport project as a result of Mayor La Guardia's negative response to the preliminary work shown by Gorky for the Field mural at the opening of the New York Federal Project Gallery on December 27, 1935. (HH266)

From Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work by Hayden Herrera:

"By the end of January 1936, Gorky, much to the annoyance of some of his fellow artists, was making preliminary sketches for Newark at an accelerated pace. Three days after being asked to produce studies, he turned up in the FAP offices with about fifty color sketches. 'And when Gorky brought in all these sketches that he'd done so quickly, by god, they hauled him up in front of the Artist Union and raised hell with him, because they said he was ruining the project, ' Saul Schary recalled. 'He was doing too much work and showing the others up.'" (HH266)

1936 - 1941: Joan Miró is exhibits annually at the Pierre Matisse Gallery.

Pierre Matisse held one-man exhibitions for Miro each year from 1936 to 1941. Although Pierre Matisse was the son of artist Henri Matisse he never held a solo show of his father's work. (AG50n12)

1936: Adolph Gottlieb joins the Artists' Union and the Easel Division of the WPA.

Adolph Gottlieb was in the Easel Division of the WPA from 1936 - 1937. (AG19)

1936: Art dealer Julien Levy publishes Surrealism. (DK169)

Early 1936: Jackson Pollock's mural proposal is rejected by the Federal Art Project.

1936: Willem de Kooning moves (again).

This time de Kooning and his live-in lover, Juliet Browner, moved to 156 West Twenty-second Street to a commercially zoned property, meaning they had to live there illegally. Joseph Solman later described the loft: "It was very spare, like he [de Kooning] had been a pupil of Mies van der Rohe. There were a few chairs and a table, in simple biomorphic shapes... You might say ultramodern or Japanese. That's the way he liked it." (DK146)

Mid to late 1930s: Willem de Kooning meets Mark Rothko.

Although they had heard of each other already, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko actually met for the first time in Washington Square Park. (DK147) De Kooning described the meeting to a journalist in 1979, saying that it happened "one night in the park, it was late, wasn't a soul around. I walked around - thought I would sit a little bit on a bench. I was sitting way on the right side of the bench and kind of a husky man was on the left end of the bench, and I thought maybe I ought to move and sit on another bench. Maybe people would think were were a couple of old queers or something. I didn't know what I was thinking. We were just sitting there - wasn't a soul around... "

Eventually the other person sitting on the bench turned to de Kooning and started making small talk, saying "something like it was a nice evening." De Kooning responded, "Yes, a nice evening" and the two got to talk. According to de Kooning, "I guess he must have asked me what I did. I said, 'I'm a painter.' He said, 'Oh, you're a painter? I'm a painter too.' And he said, 'What's your name?' I said, 'I'm Bill de Kooning.' I said, 'Who are you?' He says, 'I'm Rothko.' I said, 'Oh, for God's sake,' and said it was very funny. Then we talked and a couple of days later he came to visit me in my studio." (JL)

[Note: According to Carolyn Kinder Carr in her essay "Rebel Painters of the 1950s" written for the "Rebels: Painters and Poets of the 1950s" exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 1996, de Kooning met Rothko in 1934. However, there is no footnote indicating where Carr got this information from and the date doesn't correspond to the accounts of their meeting in either the de Kooning or Rothko biographies. Although the authors of de Kooning: An American Master avoid indicating the exact year that Rothko met de Kooning, they describe the meeting of the two after de Kooning moved to West 22nd Street in 1936. (DK146).]

1936: The American Abstract Artists group is formed.

Willem de Kooning:

"There was a terrific amount of activity going on in the thirties. It was not a dead period. You don't have to like the art to appreciate the excitement. But many of the people were good artists - [John] Graham, [Stuart] Davis, [Arshile] Gorky. We knew each other. But we also respected American scene and social realist artists. Gorky and Raphael Soyer were good friends. I wasn't a member of the American Abstract Artists, but I was with them. I disagreed with their narrowness, their telling me not to paint something. We fooled around with all kinds of things and changed from style to style a lot. It was a great big hodge-podge." (IS50)

The founding members of the American Abstract Artists, which still exists today, were Josef Albers, Rosalind Bengelsdorf, Ilya Bolotowsky, Harry Bowden, Byron Browne, Georgio Cavallon, A. N. Christie, Burgoyne Diller, Werner Drewes, Herzl Emanuel, Susie Frelinghuysen, A. E. Gallatin, Fritz Glarner, Balcomb Greene, Gertrude Greene, Hananiah Harari, Carl Holty, Ray Kaiser (later Ray Eames), Harry Holtzman, Paul Kelpe, Marie Kennedy, Ibram Lassaw, Agnes Lyall, Alice Trumbull Mason, Mercedes Matter, George McNeil, George L. K. Morris, John Opper, Ralph R. Rosenborg, Louis Schanker, Charles G. Shaw, Esphyr Slobodkina, David Smith, Albert Swinden, Vaclav Vytlacil, Frederick J. Whiteman, W. M. (Wilfred) Zogbaum. (AM) Many of the original members studied with Hans Hofmann. Hofmann never joined the group but did give a lecture at their 1941 annual meeting at the Riverside Museum. Founding members who studied with Hofmann included Bengelsdorf, Bowden, Cavallon, Diller, Holty, Kaiser, Matter, McNeil, and Vytlacil.

Members of the AAA would later include Jean Arp, Mel Bochner, Louise Bourgeois, Lyonel Feininger, William Freud, Clement Greenberg, Raymond Johnson, Fernand Leger, Sol Lewitt, Richard Lippold, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, Betty Parsons, Ad Reinhardt, Hans Richter, Robert Smithson and Jack Tworkov. Members who also studied with Hans Hofmann included Maurice Berezov, Nell Blaine, Fritz Bultman, Perle Fine, Robert Goodnough, Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson, Judith Rothschild, and Ward Jackson.

George McNeil:

"So you can say that at some point around 1936, 1937, there was a very cohesive group of modern artists in New York centered around the AAA, and also in relation to the [Federal Art] project. They had two common cores." (DK130)

February 14 - 16, 1936: The First American Artists' Congress Against War and Fascism takes place.

The Congress grew out of artists' meetings held in 1935. The first organizational meeting of the Congress took place on May 18, 1935. The original initiators of the Congress included Stuart Davis, Adolph Dehn, William Gropper, Hugo Gellert, Saul Schary and Moses Soyer. (AA53) They produced a "Call for the American Artists' Congress" signed by more than 300 artists and other interested parties including Milton Avery, Ilya Bolotowsky, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Adolph Gottlieb, Yankel [Jack] Kufeld, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, J. B. Neumann, Isamu Noguchi, Meyer Schapiro, Saul Schary, Ben Shahn, David Smith, Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, James Johnson Sweeney, Max Weber, George Biddle, Paul Cadmus, Adolf Dehn, Philip Evergood, Lorser Feitelson, Hugo Gellert, Lewis Mumford (AA49-52)

Stuart Davis membership card

Stuart Davis' membership card of
the American Artists' Congress

The 34 speakers over the three days that the Congress took place (at two venues - the Town Hall and the New School for Social Research) included Stuart Davis and Meyer Schapiro. Stuart Davis was elected secretary of the group. (SG19-20) Lewis Mumford gave the opening address.

Lewis Mumford [from Opening Address presented at the Town Hall on February 14, 1936]

"Friends, comrades, ladies and gentlemen:

Herewith we open the first American Artists' Congress... I have the double duty as a member of the American Writers' League and as chairman, tonight, to read the greeting of the American Writers' League. It was through this organization and through the unity demonstrated last April by the American Writers' League that the artists became conscious of their own needs and their opportunity...

We are gathered together tonight for the first time partly because we are in the midst of what is plainly a world catastrophe... There is the economic depression which has been with us for six or more years. A depression marked for the artist not merely by his usually meager diet, but sometimes by the inability to get so much as the bare food necessary for life. And there is imminent another large catastrophe, on even a larger scale, ever more dire in its threat, and that is the threat of war. Soldiers have a very simple cure for economic crises - it consists of shooting everyone who does not share their limited opinions and their bellicose attitudes...

Unfortunately, people who like extermination dislike culture... In a Fascist form of government some one person, usually with a silly face, a Hitler or a Mussolini, becomes the model which every subject must imitate and salute... Anyone who laughs at those stupid mugs, or incites other people to laugh at them, is a traitor.

I think that is the reason why dictatorships fear artists. They fear them because they fear free criticism... The irrepressible impulse of Art may upset the whole Fascist program...

The time has come for the people who love life and culture to form a united front against them, to be ready to protect, and guard, and if necessary, fight for the human heritage which we, as artists, embody." (AA62-4)

Although Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko were not signatories to the Call of the Congress and were not active members of the Congress, Rothko exhibited in at least one of their shows and, as a member of The Ten, contributed work to be sold at an auction to benefit children who were victims of the war in Spain. (RO123/RO586n24/LS)

March 2 - April 19, 1936. 1936: Cubism and Abstract Art exhibition takes place at The Museum of Modern Art.

In addition to Cubism, the exhibition included Futurism, Constructivism, the de Stijl group and Purism. Thirty-two works by Picasso (dating from 1907 to 1929) were exhibited. During the same period as the exhibition, Picasso's recently completed work (1934 - 1935) was being shown at the Paul Rosenberg Gallery.
(AG20/http://www.moma.org/research/archives/exhibhistory.html/TM))

From http://www.moma.org/research/archives/highlights/02_1936.html:

"The idea for the exhibition stemmed from [Alfred] Barr's days as an art history instructor at Wellesley College, where he designed and taught an innovative course in modern art. To a study of modern painting and sculpture, he added photography, architecture, graphic art, music and film. At that time there was no precedent for such a course; it was the first of its kind at an institution of higher learning.

Cubism and Abstract Art occupied all four floors of the Museum's gallery space at 11 West 53rd Street, at that time a five-story town house leased from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., husband of founding Trustee Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. The exhibition included not only painting and sculpture but also examples of photography, architecture, furniture, designs for the theater, typography, posters, and films, for a total of nearly 400 works of art. Alexander Calder's A Mobile (1936) was hung from a flagpole above the street entrance. The opening of the exhibition was delayed for one week while Museum officials and Trustees debated with the United States Customs over the entry of nineteen abstract sculptures into the United States as art objects loaned for the exhibition."

March 10 - March 30, 1936: Yves Tanguy and Howard Rothschild exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. (MA302)

April 1936: Mexican muralist David Siqueiros sets up a "Laboratory of Modern Techniques in Art" in his loft.

Siqueiros' loft was located at 5 West 14th Street in New York. Both Jackson Pollock and his brother Sande attended Siqueiros' "Laboratory" where Siqueiros would experiment with unorthodox materials and methods, including dripping, pouring and airbrushing. Jackson Pollock would use an airbrush for Untitled [Landscape with Steer] (c. 1936-7).
(PP318/
http://www.siqueiros.inba.gob.mx/en_palabras_nueva_york6.html)

April 1936: Franz Kline moves to Westbourne Grove in London.

Franz Kline, his companion, Martha ("Nutsy) Kinney, and their flatmate Frank Hahn moved from their flat on Queensborough Terrace in London to nearby Westbourne Grove, renting a basement flat at 121 Westbourne Grove. By January 17, 1937 Kline moved again - to 11A Portchester Road, London W2. (FK176)

During 1936 Kline began painting Nijinksy as Petrouchka based on a 1911 photograph of the dancer. According to Frank Hahn, he showed Kline the photograph when they were roommates. From 1936 to 1949 Kline sketched or painted Nijinsky as Petrouchka at least six times. Elizabeth Kline (born Elizabeth V. Parsons), who Franz first met in January 1937 and would marry on December 5, 1938, recalled that she and Kline shared a copy of Nijinsky's diary with each other and also gave her husband a copy of the Nijinsky biography written by Nijinksy's wife, Romola. The biography included a reproduction of the same photograph of the dancer that Frank Hahn had shown Kline. Elizabeth would later say that "He [Kline] was overcome by the photo of Nijinsky as Petrouchka. It was apropos of this that he went on about Lon Chaney. He said he knew what Petrouchka felt and Lon Chaney in his circus clown tragedy." According to Elizabeth, Kline had told her in London that "I have always felt that I'm like a clown and that my life might work out like a tragedy, a clown's tragedy." David Orr, an early patron of Kline later recalled that in early 1949 Kline claimed to him that he could paint Nijinsky blindfolded. According to Orr, "To prove his point he proceeded to draw the head on a corrugated carton which was there at the moment. It must have taken him less than thirty seconds." (FK67-8/71)

1936: Franz Kline attends Heatherley's School of Fine Art and frequents the British Museum.

During his time in London Kline made frequent trips to the British Museum and other museums and galleries, always carrying a sketchbook, drawing works of art and the city around him.

Franz Kline [1961]:

"I had an academic background - studied and drew from the model. I don't really know whether this is important or not. There's a lot of stuff you've learned that you've got to eliminate as you go along. I happen to like drawing. I suppose what you've really got to do is learn pretty much everything yourself. After all, what you finally do is a decision you can make. If anyone had told me that at forty I would be painting only in black and white, I wouldn't have believed it. These things happen slowly." (KK144)

While in London Kline kept in touch with his mother and received one pound a week from her to help meet school expenses. A letter dated August 10, 1936 to a fellow student in Boston indicated Kline's continued interest in figuration and illustration.

Franz Kline [August 10, 1936]:

"It's no use going on 'On how much I like London,' you can imagine it all. From every standpoint it's great. Subject matter of all types and the home and working grounds of all our illustrator masters, Whistler, Abbey, May, etc..." (FK28)

Willem de Kooning would later say of Kline, "He was an Anglophile in a nice way." De Kooning also recalled Kline's fascination with English actors, particularly Ronald Colman who Kline would imitate, saying "You don't take any shit from Ronald Colman." (FK30)

At Heatherley's Kline's teachers included Frederic Whiting and Steve Spurrier. Spurrier was head of the Spurrier School of Illustration which joined up with Heatherley's in 1936.

Franz Kline [March 1960]:

"I remember years ago in Spurrier's class; he, being an illustrator, the idea was to take a subject or a story and do something about this thing so that when somebody picked up a magazine, they looked at the illustration and they thought, 'Terrific, I'll read that.' The particular subject that we were to handle had to do with a scene in the railway station in the first war, with soldiers, and the engine coming into a French village. Well then, I knew exactly, not exactly what an engine looked like but there was something to draw, you know. I mean that was completely different from someone saying: 'A girl sat on the divan and said, 'Henry, I love you, darling.' Those sort of forms in your experience do, in some way not dominate, but they become the things that you are involved with. I don't mean that squares become windows; after all, squares become heads, they become everything, you know... And then, of course, the elimination and agitation and the simplification come in through the many varied experiences that go on just through the experience of painting... In other words, you try out some way in which things do meet your excitement about doing them. Even if you can't do them very well, there is something terrific about the tenacity of the form that won't allow you to do it." (SY65)

1936: Arshile Gorky paints Xhorkom (Khorkum).

Gorky's series of Xhorkom paintings (After Xhorkom, Image of Xhorkum) were named after his village in Armenia - Khorkum. (BA257)

May 1936: Franz Kline's flatmate leaves London for Singapore.

Frank Hahn went to Singapore to work for a crude rubber importing company. He would not see Kline again until 1938 in New York. Kline and Martha Kinney remained in the flat on Westbourne Grove. (FK176)

Mid - Late 1930s: Mark Rothko writes a book?

In June 1936, Milton Avery wrote to Louis Kaufman, "Over to Marcus [Mark Rothko] last night his book is coming along fine, sounds pretty good to me." Other friends of Rothko also remember him reading to them from a book he was writing on painting. However, no such book remains. Rothko did write in something called The Scribble Book, a notebook which was the source of a talk he gave in 1938 at the Center Academy where he taught art to children. The book, however, also contained a list of his exhibitions including ones that occurred after the talk. The Scribble Book also contained a title page and a three-page outline and about ten pages of text for a long essay or book comparing the various elements and processes common to paintings by children and traditional art. The Scribble Book made reference to Plato, Kant, Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy and Wilhelm Viola's Child Art and Franz Cizek and Oskar Pfister's Psycho-analysis in the Service of Education. (RO134)

Late Spring/Early Summer: Arshile Gorky drops Wyatt Davis photo enlargements from his aviation mural.

Arshile Gorky had incorporated Wyatt Davis' photos into his original Floyd Bennett field mural designs (prior to being reassigned to the Newark Airport project). Gorky convinced the Federal Art Project that he and Davis should work on separate murals during late spring or early summer. (HH266)

June 15 - 30, 1936: First Annual Competitive Exhibition of the American Artists' Congress at the ACA Galleries.

A young artist would be chosen from the Congress' juried exhibitions to receive a solo exhibition. (AA277)

June 30, 1936: Barnett Newman gets married.

Barnett Newman married Annalee Greenhouse (b. August 15, 1909), For their honeymoon they went to Concord, Massachusetts for a week, visiting Walden Pond, the Bridge, and the homes of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Bronson Alcott's academy. They then went on to Ogunquit, Maine where they rented a cottage for the summer. Newman attempted to teach his new wife figure drawing at a nearby artists colony. Newman took numerous postcard shots for a local camera shop and in return received a number of cards showing the Newman's honeymoon cottage which Barnett sent out as marriage announcements. The Newmans wanted to say in Maine for a year but had to return to their teaching jobs New York in the autumn for financial reasons. (MH/TH14)

Late June/Early July 1936: Franz Kline is visited in London by his high school English teacher.

Kline and Mathilda A. Roedel went to museums, print shops, and booksellers together. (FK176)

July 14, 1936: Mark Rothko applies to TRAP.

TRAP, the Treasury Relief Art Project was started from a grant by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in July 1935. On July 14, 1936, Cecil Jones, the business manager for the Treasury Relief Art Project, wrote to his boss, Olin Dows, "Rothkowitz [Mark Rothko], the easel painter, whose wife is employed, was in this morning and is going to try to be certified for relief. I told him that if he did we would consider his work on the strength of the information on his card." (RO119)

According to TRAP's regulations Rothko had to be unemployed. Rothko was teaching both at the Center Academy and the Far Rockaway school and his wife, Edith, had probably started her jewelry business by this time. Getting accepted to TRAP often meant that artists had to lie about their circumstances. According to James E. Breslin in Mark Rothko, A Biography, "In 1936 the Artists' Coordinating Committee, an organization of fourteen artists societies had pressured TRAP into taking on more artists (leading to Rothko's appointment)." (RO156)

Rothko was accepted for the program, earning $95.44 a month (later $103.40) for fifteen hours of work a week. (RO120) WPA paintings by Rothko include Subway, Two Women at the Window and Women and Children. (RO585)

Untitled (Subway) (c. 1937) can be found at:
http://www.nga.gov/cgi-bin/pimage?66293+0+0.

Untitled (Two Women at the Window) (c. 1937) can be found at:
http://www.nga.gov/cgi-bin/pimage?66173+0+0.

July 25, 1936: Jackson Pollock attends his brother's wedding.

Jackson Pollock's brother, Sande, married Arloie Conway - his high school girlfriend. Sande bought her a train ticket (costing $75) to get her to New York from Riverside, California where she had been living with her parents on a citrus farm. They were married at City Hall, with Jackson Pollock serving as a witness. Arloie lived with Sande and Jackson in their apartment on 8th Street. (PP318/JP84)

Summer 1936: Arshile Gorky falls in love with artist Carinne West.

Arshile Gorky [from a letter to West dated August 11, 1936]:

"I love you passionately from the head to the foot of your lovely body and pray the warm sun for our happiness and the success of your work, I love you tenderly, and wait feverishly for the first chance of seeing you again of possessing you fully and fondly." (BA253) He closed the letter with "In flames." (BA253)

Late Summer 1936: Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston view José Clemente Orozco's mural The Epic of American Civilization.

Jackson Pollock, his brother Sande and Philip Guston and two other friends visited Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire to view the mural. (PP318) According to the Tate Modern museum, Jackson Pollock's painting, Naked Man with a Knife (c. 1938 - 1940) was "derived from a lost work by the Mexican painter José Clemente Orozco."
(http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?workid=12148)

August 1936 - 1938: The Moscow Trials are held.

In the United States, 150 artists, including Raphael Soyer, Stuart Davis, Philip Evergood, Max Weber and Hugo Gellert signed a petition supporting the trials on April 28, 1938. (SG27)

Autumn 1936: Barnett Newman and wife return to New York from Maine and rent an apartment in Chelsea.

Their apartment was located at 300 West 23rd Street. During the next two years they would move first to 315 West 23rd Street and then to 433 West 21st Street. (MH)

September 1936: Jackson Pollock has another car accident.

Pollock was staying with some schoolmates who were renting an old farmhouse in Bucks County. Three weeks into his stay he was involved in a car accident, wrecking the Model T Ford that his brother Charles had left behind when he moved to Washington, D.C. On October 29, 1936 Jackson's brother Sande wrote to Charles that "Jack had the misfortune of colliding with some bastard and as a result the old Ford has been permanently laid to rest." The damage to the other car came to $80 which, his brother noted, "Jack will have to pay." (JP85)

1936: John Ferren exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery. (BA265)

From Virginia M. Mecklenburg."The Patricia and Phillip Frost Collection: American Abstraction, 1930-1945" (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), pp. 64-67:

"John Ferren was one of the few members of the American Abstract Artists to come to artistic maturity in Paris. A native of California, in 1924 Ferren went to work for a company that produced plaster sculpture. He briefly attended art school in San Francisco. Later he served as an apprentice to a stonecutter. By 1929, Ferren had saved enough money to go to Europe... After this initial year in Europe, Ferren returned to California. By 1931 he was again in Paris, where he lived for most of the next seven years...

Following his divorce in 1938, Ferren returned to the United States. He attended American Abstract Artist meetings, but felt little of the frustration that had prompted the organization's formation. After Ad Reinhardt used Ferren's name on a pamphlet passed out on the Museum of Modern Art picket line, Ferren broke from the group.

During World War II, Ferren served with the Office of War Information in the North African and European theaters. By this time, Ferren had reintroduced the figure into his paintings without giving up abstraction, and following the war he turned to Abstract Expressionism.

In moving from geometric abstraction to the academically based figure and still-life paintings he did after the war, and finally to the freely painted expressionist work of his later years, Ferren searched for a way to express moral truth. Throughout his life, he viewed painting as a means of seeking the reality behind appearance. His early appreciation of Kandinsky and a fascination with Zen that dated from his youth helped define the way he thought about painting throughout his life. He called art the "great common denominator between knowledge and insight," and said it should explore the intuitive - the spiritual, mental, social or psychological - forces of life."
(http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/collections/exhibits/abstraction/ferren.html)

From 1954 to 1958 Ferren exhibited at the Stable Gallery - the same gallery that would give Andy Warhol his first N.Y Pop exhibition in 1962.
(http://www.artnet.com/Galleries/Artists_detail.asp?gid=856&aid=6146)

September 14-October 12, 1936: "New Horizons in American Art" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibition, curated by Dorothy Miller, was the first major museum show of work by artists hired for the Federal Art Project. It Included work by Willem de Kooning, Stuart Davis, Balcomb Greene and Arshile Gorky. (DK126)

Scale models of the Newark Airport buildings with gouaches of the planned murals were exhibited as well as Gorky's first completed panel of the mural. (Each panel was to have a different name such as Mechanics of Flying, Aerial Map, Study for Aviation, Activities on the Field, Modern Aviation etc.) Gorky's panel on November 8, 1936 with the headline, "GOODNESS GRACIOUS! IS AVIATION REALLY COMING TO THIS?" (BA261)

From the Newark Ledger:

"This little gem is known as Aviation Evolution of Forms Under Aerodynamic Limitations. It's a mural painting (according to Artist Arshile Gorky), which will be hung in the second-floor foyer of the Newark Airport administration building. If you look closely, you can distinguish what appears to be an airship tail at the left, but for the rest he was stumped too."

October 1936: Jackson Pollock meets Becky Tarwater.

Jackson Pollock first saw Tarwater at a party in Greenwich Village which Sande and Arloie had taken him to. Becky was a singer and banjo player who was performing at the party. Jackson asked if he could walk her home and she declined because he was drunk but later ran into him on the subway going home. They saw each other for about three months before Becky had to return to her family home in Tennessee to care for her sister who had Hodgkin's disease. Becky later recalled about her relationship with Pollock, "It's almost embarrassing to think how unphysical we were." She also remembered that when she visited Jackson's studio there was only one canvas in it which was on the floor and that "We never talked about his art, or what he wanted to do." (JP87)

October 1936: Franz Kline's drawings are published in The Artist.

Two Kline drawings were reproduced in the magazine which frequently devoted one or two pages to work by London art school students - one drawing was a nude and one was of Martha "Nutsy" Kinney who was living with Kline. (FK176)

October 29 - November 17, 1936: "De Chirico, Paintings and Gouaches" exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. (AG28n53)

November 1936: Arshile Gorky's sister Vartoosh and her husband Moorad move from Gorky's studio to Chicago. (BA264)

Gorky's friend Bernard Davis had arranged for Moorad to work at the Samarkand carpet factory. Gorky, his sister and her husband (and their new baby) had lived with Gorky for more than a year. (BA264) He adopted a cat that he named Bujik ("little one"). (BA264)

November 10 - November 24, 1936: The Ten exhibit in Paris.

The Ten had their first (and only) exhibition in Europe at the Galerie Bonaparte in Paris, arranged by art dealer Joseph Brummer. (AG18/LS)

November 18 - December 8, 1936: Max Ernst and Leonor Fini, Paintings exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. (MA302)

November 1936: The WPA requests a report from Gorky in regard to his airport mural. (BA261)

See Arshile Gorky's Newark Airport Murals

Winter 1936: Jackson Pollock meets Lee Krasner.

Jackson met her briefly at a party sponsored by the Artists' Union but would not meet her again for about five years. (PP318/JP108)

December 1936 - January 2, 1937: The Ten have a second exhibition at the Montross Gallery.

By the time of The Ten's fourth exhibition (their second at the Montross) Lee Gatch had replaced Tschacbasov as a member of the group. (AG18) Reviews of the show referred to them as Expressionists.

From The New York Times review (December 20, 1936):

"At the Montross Gallery... "The Ten" is holding its second annual... The present membership roster reads as follows: Ben-Zion, Bolotowsky, Lee Gatch, Adolph Gottlieb, Harris, Kufeld, Rothkowitz [Mark Rothko], Schanker and Solman. Most of them are 'expressionists' who have hung loyally on to their somewhat inchoate tenets from year to year. I do not believe I understand the American expressionists so very well. Many of these paintings at the Montross I feel that I do not understand at all. Often they look to me like silly smudges." ("Solo Flights and Group Landings," The New York Times, December 20, 1936 (Sunday), p. x11)

From the review by "M.D." in Art News (December 19, 1936):

"Most commendable are the portraits by Adolph Gottlieb. With telling distortions and suggestive tones he fixes his character: whether with the wistful melancholy of Man with a Hat or with the sinning humor of the matriarchal Family... Yankel Kufeld's Night, personified by a hooded figure, is notable for its romantic strength."

The review in the December 26, 1936 issue of the New York American was headed "Expressionists:"

From the New York American [December 26, 1936]:

"While most of 'The Ten' are expressionists, they do not minimize realistic external appearances in the same degree... Adolph Gottlieb, for instance, retains a good bit of realism in order to heighten the force of his satirical treatment... The new member of the group, Lee Gatch, seeks to reconcile realism with the abstract in such a way as to avoid loss to his painting of either spiritual or sensuous quality." (LS)

December 7, 1936 - January 17, 1937: "Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

Artists included  Joan Miro, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Klee, Man Ray, Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Frances Picabia,  Pierre Roy,  Salvador Dali and others.

From "Marvelous & Fantastic," Time magazine (Dec. 14, 1936):

"Inside the front door of Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art this week, oblong slabs of glass painted with black stripes revolved steadily under a six foot pair of red lips painted by Artist Man Ray. In other galleries throughout the building were a black felt head with a necklace of cinema film and zippers for eyes; a stuffed parrot on a hollow log containing a doll's leg; a teacup, plate and spoon covered entirely with fur; a picture painted on the back of a door from which dangled a dollar watch, a plaster crab and a huge board to which were tacked a mousetrap, a pair of baby shoes, a rubber sponge, clothespins, a stiff collar, pearl necklace, a child's umbrella, a braid of auburn hair and a number of hairpins twisted to form a human face. There were in addition, books, prints and paintings ranging from the 18th to the 20th Century, from Pieter Bruegel to contemporary Peter Blume...

Fantastic Art has always existed, always will as long as men have illogical minds and unruly imaginations... Dada is something newer, different, a bewilderment that affected the art world of Europe for a few shell-shocked years during and immediately after the War. The object of dadaism was a conscious attack on reason, a complete negation of everything, the loudest and silliest expression of post-War cynicism...

Surrealism. An art movement without hope or object cannot last long. Dadaist Max Ernst in his desire to spit in the eye of the world was experimenting about this time with what he calls his collages: fantastic pictures made by cutting apart old engravings and rearranging them to make bustled ladies with lions' heads, assassins with angels' wings, strange trees growing from horses' backs, etc... Surrealism in plainer language is an attempt to explore the subconscious mind and to evoke emotional reactions through the illogical juxtaposition of objects..."

The article was footnoted with "*The word surrealist was first used in 1917 when late Poet Guillaume Apollinaire subtitled his play Les Mamelles de Tiresias, Drame Surrealiste."

December 10, 1936 - January 9, 1937: Dali exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. (MA302)

Christmas 1936: Martha Kinney leaves Franz Kline.

Martha was called back to the United States by her mother to get married - a marriage arranged by the mother who thought that Kline would "never amount to anything." Martha would never saw Kline again although they would correspond briefly in 1938. (FK176)

to 1937 abstract expressionism

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