Art of the Week

Will Barnet (1911-)
Widow’s Walk, 1974
Lithograph on Arches paper, 66 x 50 cm.
Gift of Kenneth L. Halsband ‘88

Born in 1911 in Beverly, Massachusetts, as a child Barnet enjoyed climbing the hills to watch the ships in the harbor, playing baseball, and reading at the local public library. He was excited to discover the art section. As he remembers, “I used to bury myself in those rooms day after day. It was practically my whole life. That’s where my first yearning for art began.”  At the age of 12, he established a studio in his parent’s basement where he drew and painted. He made frequent trips to Boston and Salem to explore the collections of the Peabody and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Continually dissatisfied with high school, in his last year he decided to leave. In 1927, Barnet enrolled at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where he learned drawing, painting, anatomy, and art history in the European tradition.

After several years, Barnet decided to continue his study at the Art Students League in New York, where he developed an interest in lithography, etching, and woodcutting. Between 1932 and 1942, Barnet became an avid printmaker, using the medium to capture the economic and social despair of the Depression years.  He would subsequently teach at the New School for Social Research, at New Jersey State Teachers College, and from 1945-1978 at Cooper Union in New York.

Following the birth of his first son in 1938, Barnet made his wife and children his sole artistic subjects. He painted scenes of domesticity such as Soft Boiled Eggs (1946) and Summer Family (1948) using bright, emotive colors and cubist-inspired from. These abstractions attest to his careful study of the great modern artists such as Matisse, Picasso and, Léger. Focusing on images of family Barnet was “trying to purge himself of the subject, searching for the essence in the act of painting.”

Throughout the fifties and into the early sixties, Barnet painted abstractly, moving from the figure to cityscape and landscape painting.  Although he lived in Manhattan, he traveled frequently during this period in America and Europe. He spent summers in Provincetown Massachusetts, in Duluth Minnesota, where he taught a 1959 summer session at the University of Minnesota, and in Spokane, Washington, where he taught during the summer of 1963. While these trips fueled his interest in representing the American landscape through form and color, in the early sixties the figure reappeared as the primary subject in Barnet’s art.  By the seventies he joined his interest in figurative and landscape painting in works that combined the female form with the organic images of forest, sky, and sea.

Will Barnet’s prints depict the human figure and animals, both in casual scenes of daily life and in transcendent dreamlike worlds. His sustained exploration of the relationship between abstract forms and perception echo the works of famed artist Alex Katz and the abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning.
“My interest has been in developing further the plastic convictions that have been evolving in my abstract paintings; so that a portrait, while remaining a portrait, becomes in this sense an abstraction: the idea of a person in its most intense and essential aspect.”
-Will Barnet, 1962

Doty, Robert M. Will Barnet. Harry N. Abrams, 1984
“Will Barnet: a part of and apart from his times.” By: TRUCCO, Terry. ARTnews, December 1982, Vol. 81, p94-98

New Collection

The Colleges have received an anonymous gift of 68 Inuit sculptures and prints. The following is a representative sample

Parr, Nuna (b. 1949, Canada).
Dancing Bear, 1900-1999.
Stone, 69 cm h.
Anonymous gift.

Parr was born near Cape Dorset and lived with his adoptive parents, the graphic artists Parr and Eleeshushe. His interest in hunting and his regard for the animal life of the Arctic are directly reflected in his work. His rounded forms have great movement and a natural flow with the grain of the stone. He is the most prolific and recognized Inuit artist alive today. He is well known for his dancing and walking bears and frequently injects his work with a sense of fun and exuberance for life.

The polar bear is not a harmless artistic subject. Considered by Inuit as an object of greed and a prestigious source; the bear is the animal who looks like most the Inuit people, taking place at the top of the animal hierarchy. As an Inuk, the polar bear is a predator, what implies relations of rivalry and competition: they hunt both the same game and represent a mutual threat. A marine and ground mammal at the same time, the bear is cunning, powerful and comfortable in the water as on ground. We say that humans imitate the polar bear’s way of hunting. It is not rare to find bears near villages while they look for food and their strength inspires fear and respect.

Things made by Inuit. 
Québec: Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, c1980.
“Nuna Parr: A Hunter’s Perspective.” Cartwright, Jennifer. Inuit Art Quarterly, Fall 2002, Vol. 17 Issue 3, p20-22, 3p
“Inuit Art: Markers of Cultural Resilience.” Igloliorte, Heather. Inuit Art Quarterly, Spring/Summer 2010, Vol. 25 Issue 1/2, p4-11, 8p

Art of the Week

George Grosz (1893-1959)
The End of a Perfect Day, 1939
Drypoint, 27 x 34 cm.
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

George Grosz was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1893. After studying art in Dresden and Berlin he began contributing cartoons to German journals such as Ulk and Lustige Blatter. On the outbreak of the First World War, Grosz was conscripted into the German Army. A strong opponent of the war, he was eventually released as unfit for duty. However, the following year, desperate for soldiers, Grosz was called up again. Kept from frontline action, Grosz was used to transport and guard prisoners of war. After trying to commit suicide in 1917, Grosz was placed in an army hospital. It was decided to execute Grosz, but he was saved by the intervention of one of his patrons, Count Kessler. Grosz was then diagnosed as suffering from shell-shock and was discharged from the German Army. In 1917, Grosz joined with John Heartfield in protesting German wartime propaganda campaign against the allies. After the Armistice, Grosz was active in left-wing politics and contributed to communist journals published by Malik-Verlag. He also joined with artists such as John Heartfield, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters to form the German Dada group. Grosz’ drawings often attacked members of the government and important business leaders. Grosz was taken to court several times, but although heavily fined, managed to escape imprisonment. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Grosz directed his attacks against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. In 1932, Grosz was forced to flee from Nazi Germany and after settling in the United States became a naturalized citizen in 1938. His memoirs, The Autobiography of George Grosz was published in 1955. George Grosz returned to Germany in 1959, saying “My American dream turned out to be a soap bubble”. He died shortly after his arrival following a fall down a flight of stairs.

Flavell, M. Kay. George Grosz, a biography.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
Lewis, Beth Irwin. George Grosz: art and politics in the Weimar Republic.Madison, University of Wisconsin Press [1971]

New Art

Barbara Kohl-Spiro
Pinwheel and Pride, 1980
Silkscreen, 56 x 76 cm.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84

Barbara Kohl-Spiro
Sweet Soul, 1980
Silkscreen, 56 x 76 cm.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84

Barbara Kohl-Spiro has exhibited nationally, and her work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of Art, the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and in numerous private collections.

“Make the soul sing-this is my mission. Kafka said art should cleave the frozen sea inside a heart. I think that. When critics, curators, gallery owners, art historians, etc., are no longer around 100 years after a work is created, it is the lone work left to relate to future generations. In all times, certain basic things reach the human heart. The fundamental things survive as time goes by. I hope I can add a little something to that part of human culture. I am  Jewish and my tradition teaches the importance of thinking of generations to come. I think of the legacy given to me by all the great artists of the past. To me many of these artists were women-often anonymous, often part of the decorative arts. I hope I can be a small part of the creative people’s legacy. In this series, I often refer to Ellie Needleman’s “Kicking Lady” because she has a spirit of celebration. I love the blessing of finding joy in the work I do every day. I specially treasure my glorious family and friends who always are making more rooms in my heart. I thank God for giving me a creative soul.”

Art of the Week

John Sloan (1871-1951)
Turning Out the Light, 1905
Etching, 16 x 20 cm.
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

A leader of The Eight, John Sloan was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Sloan grew up in Philadelphia, where he studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in 1892 joined the art staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That year he met Robert Henri, who would become his life-long friend and inspire him to become a painter. Among his fellow newspaper artists in Philadelphia were William Glackens, George Luks, and Everett Shinn. In 1904 Sloan and Dolly, his wife of three years, moved to New York, where he continued to work as an illustrator and became increasingly interested in depicting city life and city scenes. In 1910 Sloan joined the Socialist Party and contributed illustrations to its publications, notably the magazine The Masses. With the advent of World War I he resigned from the party. It was probably due to Sloan’s paintings, which favored a dark palette and scenes of the gritty side of urban life in turn-of-the-century New York City, that the Eight was later dubbed the “Ashcan School.” Sloan’s subjects are voyeuristic, a spectator of the human dramas he glimpsed in the streets and tenements of New York. Duncan Phillips further noted in A Collection in the Making, that Sloan was a “…sympathetic and understanding observer of class consciousness, crowd psychology and the bitter ironies of life.” One of America’s most revered artists in his later years, Sloan continued to paint, etch, and experiment with new printing techniques, until his death in 1951.

This etching comes from the series of 10 prints entitled New York City Life, recording the lives of the ordinary inhabitants in less affluent areas of Manhattan. The prints had a mixed reception at the time and a number were rejected from an exhibition of the American Watercolor Society as ‘vulgar’ and ‘indecent’. The mood of Turning out the Light is one of anticipation and intimacy: the woman glances down at the man lying stretched out on their unmade bed, while her discarded stockings are draped over the bed frame. The intimacy is heightened by the strong contrast between the densely-worked areas of cross-hatching in the deeper shadows and the unetched blank areas of the light.

Scott, David W., John Sloan. New York : Watson-Guptill, 1975.
“Exhibition of ‘The Eight’: its history and significance.” By: Homer, William Innes. American Art Journal, Spring 1969, Vol. 1 Issue 1, p53-64, 12p
“John Sloan memorial; his complete graphic work.” Bulletin: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1956, Vol. 51 Issue 248, p17-31, 15p
“Re-viewing John Sloan’s images of women” By: Coco, Janice M. Oxford Art Journal, 1998, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p79-97, 19p
“Women as urban spectators in John Sloan’s early work.” By: Weintraub, Laural. American Art, Summer2001, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p72-83, 12p