Friday, March 02, 2012

ism of the week - week 3

Each week during our current exhibition, ...isms: Unlocking Art's Mysteries, we will post deeper insight into one of the paintings on view. Past the credit line, past the exhibition label, Assistant Curator Amanda Burdan shares her thoughts:

Instrumental in many ways to the establishment of abstract art in the United States, Harry Holtzman is best remembered today for his close friendship with and writing about Piet Mondrian. Holtzman’s colleague, the abstract artist Burgoyne Diller, proved pivotal to his future as an artist. Diller introduced Holtzman to the Gallatin Collection at New York University where Holtzman first encountered Mondrian’s work. Though he had not seen Mondrian’s paintings before, Holtzman had been working in a similar geometric style. Intrigued to the point of obsession, Holtzman traveled to Paris in 1934, intent on meeting Mondrian.

By 1934 Mondrian had firmly established his Neo-Plasticism, an entirely abstract style made upin its ultimate formstrictly of horizontal and vertical lines and primary colors. Mondrian was beginning to experiment with three-dimensional interpretations of his iconic style. The two men shared theories of art and parted as friends when Holtzman returned to the United States the following spring.

Holtzman continued to be active in the New York art world, teaching classes at European modernist Hans Hoffman’s school. He, along with other advanced artists of the period founded the American Abstract Artists group in 1937, to further the cause of abstraction in this country. During the Depression Holtzman also worked as an administrator for the mural painting division of the Federal Art Program, a branch of the Works Progress Administration. In 1940, Holtzman sponsored Mondrian’s immigration to the United States, supporting the artist through the last four years of his life. Mondrian passed away, naming Holtzman as the sole heir to his estate, the administration of which consumed much of his time. The lifelong project of publishing Mondrian’s complete writings only came to fruition months before Holtzman’s death in 1987.

A recent acquisition to the Museum's collection---
Harry Holtzman (1912–1987)

Red, Orange, Green and Yellow

Oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum

Museum purchase, Alice Talcott Enders Purchase Fund

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