ROLPH SCARLETT & WALTER QUIRT: MISSING PAGES OCTOBER 13 - DECEMBER 1, 2018
In a first of its kind exhibition, two historically critical, if less popularly recognized, American painters of the 20th century – ROLPH SCARLETT and WALTER QUIRT- are featured in this important gallery exhibit comprised of paintings dating from 1932 to 1962.
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 passionate freedom of artistic expression, prior to and following these periods, that transcended the labels and is often overlooked or ignored. This exhibition presents work eschewing each artist’s style or movement they were identified with, in favor of less known but highly significant paintings that vary from abstraction to figurative expressionism.
In spite of the critical recognition and praise during their careers and their respective place in American art history, what both artists share is their legacies were diminished due to circumstances they could not affect or control.
Canadian-American painter, Rolph Scarlett’s (1889-1984) brush with critical and historic success began in 1939 when his work was discovered by Baroness Hilla Rebay, founding director of Solomon Guggenheims first museum, The Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York. He became the third most highly collected artist of the Guggenheim collection after Russian-born, Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and German born, Rudolf Bauer (1889-1953). He maintained a position as both artist and a lecturer in the museum. But upon Solomon Guggenheim’s 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), already at the center of an emerging generation of American avant-garde artists, rose to critical 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 17-city 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, with the exception of a retrospective sponsored by the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in 1980, 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.
“Holmes has done a great deal to advocate for the legacies of both artists – especially Quirt, whom he has single handedly championed – and the present exhibition is a labor of love that illuminates the qualities Quirt and Scarlett share.” – John Dorfman, Editor in Chief, ART AND ANTIQUES MAGAZINE, October 2018