Under Glass: Master Works on Paper

An exhibition of works on paper by some of the gallery’s most distinguished artists, including Joan Miró, Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Diego Rivera, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Herbert Bayer, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others.

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About the Artists
(1910 - 1962)
Franz Kline’s first academic training was at Boston University from 1931 to 1935 and in London at the Heatherley School of Art from 1937 to 1938 as an illustrator and draughtsman. Two main tendencies emerged at an early stage that would later develop into a powerful contribution to the ‘gestural’ trend within Abstract Expressionism.

Numerous small graphics, sketches and oils and the mural series Hot Jazz (Norfolk, VA, Chrysler Mus.), painted for a New York bar in 1940, reveal an interest in translating animated subjects into quick, rudimentary strokes. Franz Kline admired and found inspiration in a wide range of artists notable for their fluency in handling paint, including Rembrandt, Goya, Manet, Sargent and Whistler.
By contrast, an inclination to compose in terms of simplified areas was derived from academic training and perhaps also reflected Kline’s memories of his native Pennsylvania’s coal-mining region, with its stark scenery, locomotives and similar massive mechanical shapes to which the titles of his later abstract images sometimes referred. Nijinsky as Petrouchka and similar canvases marked the climax of this representational phase with their combination of vigorous brushwork and an angular substructure. But against the context of contemporary New York painting a move towards abstraction was inevitable.

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(1903 - 2001)
Known for his Abstract Expressionism and Color-Field paintings in oil as well as collages, Esteban Vicente attended art school in Madrid at the Academy Belles Artes before moving to New York City in 1936. There he became affiliated with the Action Painters in the 1950s including Willem and Elaine De Kooning. In "Art News" magazine, 1952, Elaine De Kooning had an article published on Esteban Vicente titled "Vicente Paints a Collage"

Vicente was also an art educator with positions at Black Mountain College, University of California at Berkeley, New York University, Yale University, Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles.

He had his first one-man show at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1928, and from that time entered many exhibitions in Spain including Barcelona as well as Madrid where his paintings are in the Reina Sofia Museum. In 1991 Vicente was honored by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain with the Gold Medal for Fine Arts.

Of his painting Esteban Vicente said: ...If I have to say something about the subject of my painting, I might say that it is an interior landscape. This image becomes the subject. It is always the same idea, the same image---from an accumulation of experience. I don't know if one can actually identify this image. When I say 'landscape', I mean a structure. The structure of the painting is landscape---but not the color. That's why I say they are 'inter landscapes'. " (Herskovic 346)

(1895 - 1976)
Emil Bisttram was born in Hungary in 1895 and immigrated to America with his family in 1906. He began working with commercial art at a young age, first working as a lettering and cover designer for shops and catalogues before opening his own commercial art studio with three of his colleagues. While running his successful art studio, Bisttram pursued his study of fine art with night classes at the National Academy of Art and Design, the Cooper Union, Parson’s School of Design and the Art Students League, where he studied under such well-known artists as Ivan Olinski, DeLeftwich Dodge, Howard Giles, and Leon Kroll.

It was during this time that he first became acquainted with Jay Hambidge’s artistic philosophy of Dynamic Symmetry – a methodology of proportion and design that influenced Bisttram’s work throughout his career. In 1920, he began teaching at Parson’s School of Design, where he remained until 1925. It was around this time that he was invited by the Russian artist Nicholas Konstantin Roerich to visit his Master Institute of United Arts – Roerich’s personal project to unify different art forms, such as music, dance, fine art, and drama. Roerich’s mystical spirituality, interest in the occult, and philosophy of serving humanity through the arts were profound influences on Bisttram’s own spiritual and philosophical development. Bisttram’s fascination with mysticism and spirituality were also influenced by his discovery of Vassily Kandinsky’s On the Spiritual in Art.

Bisttram paid his first visit to Santa Fe in 1930. Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Mexico on a Guggenheim fellowship to study mural painting with Diego Rivera. In 1932, he settled in Taos. As a result of his new age philosophy and modern artistic ideas, Bisttram was received by Taos’ community of traditional and regional artists with ambivalence. Nonetheless, Bisttram lost no time making his mark there. During his first year in Taos, he opened the Taos Art School, later known as the Bisttram School of Fine Art. He also founded Taos’ first commercial art gallery, the Heptagon Gallery. In the next several years, Bisttram received several significant mural commissions, including one for the Taos Court House and another for the Justice Department building in Washington, D.C., for which he painted a heroic depiction of the liberation of women, a cause in which he believed strongly.

Though Bisttram continued to paint representational works – particularly portraits and depictions of Native American ceremonies and dances which were strongly influenced by the Mexican muralists – his work became increasingly abstract. His development into abstraction was strongly influenced by Native American geometric designs and symbolism. Bisttram was particularly fascinated with the way Native American artists were able to depict the natural world using symbols.

In 1938, Emil Bisttram and his close friend, Raymond Jonson, co-founded the Transcendental Painting Group, a group of artists whose shared vision was to transcend material reality and advance the expression of spirituality in art through the creation of non-representational work. The Group included Agnes Pelton, Lauren Harris, Ed Garman, Robert Gribbroek, William Lumpkins, Florence Miller Pierce, Stuart Walker, and Horace Towner Pierce. Along with Pelton, Bisttram was particularly devoted to exploring spirituality through art. Bisttram believed that art had the potential to lead an individual to a transcendental experience by speaking in “an esoteric language more easily felt than explained” (Wiggins 1988; 9). Along with his mentors Kandinsky and Roerich, Bisttram never lost his conviction that an individual could discover transcendent truths about the universe through the practice of art.

Bisttram continued to be a prominent member of the Taos art community. In 1952, he helped to found the Taos Artists Association, along with artists such as Ernest Blumenschein and Joseph Fleck. He exhibited widely throughout his lifetime, including one-man exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Jonson Gallery at the University of New Mexico Art Museum.

His work is included in the collections of the Denver Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among other public and private collections.

Sources and Further Reading: Wiggins, Walt. The Transcendental Art of Emil Bisttram. Ruidoso Downs, NM: Pintores Press, 1988.

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(1880 - 1966)
Hans Hofmann is one of the most important figures of postwar American art. Celebrated for his exuberant, color-filled canvases, and renowned as an influential teacher for generations of artists—first in his native Germany, then in New York and Provincetown—Hofmann played a pivotal role in the development of Abstract Expressionism.

As a teacher he brought to America direct knowledge of the work of a celebrated group of European modernists (prior to World War I he had lived and studied in Paris) and developed his own philosophy of art, which he expressed in essays which are among the most engaging discussions of painting in the twentieth century, including "The Color Problem in Pure Painting—Its Creative Origin."

Hofmann taught art for over four decades; his impressive list of students includes Vaclav Vytlacil, Helen Frankenthaler, Red Grooms, Alfred Jensen, Wolf Kahn, Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson and Frank Stella. As an artist Hofmann tirelessly explored pictorial structure, spatial tensions and color relationships. In his earliest portraits done just years into the twentieth century, his interior scenes of the 1940s and his signature canvases of the late 1950s and the early 1960s, Hofmann brought to his paintings what art historian Karen Wilkin has described as a "range from loose accumulations of brushy strokes…to crisply tailored arrangements of rectangles…but that somehow seems less significant than their uniform intensity, their common pounding energy and their consistent physicality."

Hofmann was born Johann Georg Hofmann in Weissenberg, Bavaria, Germany in 1880 and raised and educated in Munich. After initial studies in science and mathematics, he began studying art in 1898. With the support of Berlin art patron Phillip Freudenberg, Hofmann was able to move to Paris in 1904, taking classes at both the Académie de la Grande Chaumière (with fellow student Henri Matisse) and the Académie Colarossi. In Paris Hofmann observed and absorbed the innovations of the most adventurous artists of the day including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Fernand Léger and Henri Matisse, many of whom he met and became friendly with. Hofmann would remain in Paris until 1914 when the advent of World War I required him to return to Germany. In 1915, unable to enroll in the military due to a respiratory ailment, Hofmann opened an innovative school for art in Munich, where he transmitted what he had learned from the avant-garde in Paris. The school’s reputation spread internationally, especially after the war, attracting students from Europe and the United States, thus beginning what was to be almost a lifetime of teaching for Hofmann.

At the invitation of Worth Ryder, one of his former students, Hofmann went to the University of California, Berkeley, to teach in the summer of 1930. He returned to Berkeley the following year, a momentous one which also saw his first American solo exhibition at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Because of the deteriorating circumstances in pre-war Germany, Hofmann made the decision to remain in the United States permanently (his wife, Maria, would join him in 1939). In 1932 he settled in New York where he again taught art, first at The Art Students League, then, a year later, at his own school (adding in 1935 summer sessions in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he also lived). For eager young Americans, most of whom had traveled little—constrained in the 1930s by the Depression and in the 1940s by World War II and its aftermath—contact with Hofmann served as an invaluable alternative for direct contact with the European sources of Modernism. 

By 1960 noted art historian Clement Greenberg called Hofmann "in all probability the most important art teacher of our time." His school would remain a vital presence in the New York art world until 1958, when the seventy-eight year old Hofmann decided to devote himself full-time to painting.

Despite his renown as a teacher, it wasn’t until 1944, at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery, that Hofmann had his first major solo exhibition in the United States. He became part of the emerging New York School, and was friendly with Pollock, Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Clyfford Still, and Mark Rothko. From that time on, Hofmann exhibited widely. Hofmann’s paintings were the subject of exhibitions at major institutions such as the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Modern Art. Hofmann was also one of four artists representing the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1960.Three years later, The Museum of Modern Art mounted the landmark exhibition “Hans Hofmann and His Students.” 

Although Hofmann did not come to the United States until he was over fifty, he is embraced as an American painter and regarded as a key member of the Abstract Expressionists. For all his connections to that movement, and to abstraction itself, his work was nonetheless and by his own admission firmly rooted in the visible world. He combined Cubist structure and intense Fauvist color into a highly personal visual language with which he endlessly explored pictorial structures and chromatic relationships. Hofmann created volume in his compositions not by rendering or modeling but through contrasts of color, shape and surface.

Hofmann was close to 70 years old when, in a dazzling burst of energy he painted most of the large, highly recognizable canvases of the late 1950s and 1960s that assured his reputation. With their stacked, overlapping and floating rectangles and clear, saturated hues, these extraordinary paintings continued up until the end of his remarkable long career what Hofmann had first explored as an artist over six decades earlier.

His work is in the public collections of the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA;  the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Aspen Art Museum; the Auckland Art Gallery; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Germanische Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the Kunsthaus Hamburg;  the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the  Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; the Musée de Grenoble; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Tate Gallery, London; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;  and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, among others.

Recent select solo exhibitions include Hans Hofmann, Miles McEnery Gallery, New York (2021—22); Works on Paper, Tayloe Piggott Gallery, Wyoming (2021); Hans Hofmann: Color and Form, American Contemporary Art Gallery, Munich (2019-20); The Post-War Years: 1945—1946, Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe, New York (2017); Push and Pull: Hans Hofmann, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley (2016); Hans Hofmann: Selected Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2014—15).

Recent select group exhibitions include Do You Think It Needs A Cloud?, Miles McEnery Gallery, New York (2020); The Irascibles: Painters Against the Museum (New York, 1950), Fundación Juan March, Madrid (2020); Color Beyond Description: The Watercolors of Charles Hawthorne, Hans Hofmann and Paul Resika, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown (2019); Sublime Abstraction, Heather James Fine Art, Palm Desert (2017—18); Now's the Time, Sheldon Museum of Art, Nebraska (2017); Abstract Expressionism, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2016—17); Art in the Making, Freedman Art, New York (2014—15); From Abstract Expression to Colored Planes, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle (2013—15).

Biographical and exhibition/collection sources: Courtesy of Hans Hofmann Trust; Smithsonian; Artnet; Phoebe Bradford, Ocula

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(1922 - 1990)
Originally from South Dakota, Ray Parker entered the University of Iowa in Iowa City in 1940; he earned his MFA in 1948. From 1948 to 1951 he taught painting at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. During the 1940s his paintings were heavily influenced by cubism. In the early 1950s, however, Parker became associated with the leading Abstract Expressionists of the day, including Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Parker soon began to simplify and refine his works realizing that through abstraction, and color his paintings could convey and express emotion.Like Piet Mondrian, Stuart Davis and Jackson Pollock, Parker was a fan of jazz music; and his interest in jazz, combined with his interest in abstract expressionism, led to his improvised painting style.
(1921 - 1999)
Norman Bluhm was an American Abstract Expressionist painter. Though he never achieved the same fame as his peers Joan Mitchell and Sam Francis, Bluhm was an influential figure in American art and is widely revered as a “painter’s painter.” His work employs a repetition of organic forms and semi-figurative moments within pure abstraction to create a rhythmic language with paint. 

Born on March 28, 1921 in Chicago, IL, Bluhm went on to study architecture at the Armour Institute of Technology in Illinois under Mies van der Rohe.  He studied briefly in Florence before moving to Paris in 1947 to continue studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. After serving in World War II, Bluhm lived in Paris and developed an interest in figurative painting.

In 1956 he moved to New York, where he began painting full time. Bluhm’s earliest paintings were figural, but by the early ’50s he had moved into full abstraction, eventually taking on its characteristically looser and more gestural style. Throughout, Bluhm maintained a passion for art history and an abiding interest in contemporary practice.

From his architectural studies, Bluhm created paintings with an abiding sense of structure, balance, and compositional technique. Also influenced by the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, he sought a style even further removed from mimesis and preoccupied entirely with surface, color, and medium. Beginning with drawing and a schema, he would build layers of abstraction to explore spirituality and eroticism through paint, altogether eschewing narrative content or figuration. 

Also taking inspiration from the Impressionist masters, he once cited Jean-Baptiste-Camillie Corot and Gustave Courbet as major sources of influence: “Not in painting, in their style or in the style of their period, but in the spiritual and the light of them and certain crystal elements which Corot or Courbet each different in another way,” he said. “I tried to paint big landscapes with this kind of feeling about light." 

The critic Raphael Rubinstein has written,

“What’s…impressive about Bluhm’s canny use of art history is that he is able to recapitulate and reinterpret stellar moments from the history of Western painting without ever lapsing into pastiche, the bane of so much history-conscious art.”Soon, his work was showing at the Leo Castelli and Martha Jackson galleries in Manhattan, and Galerie Stadler in Paris. From the late 1950s until his death in 1999, Bluhm exhibited regularly in group and solo shows throughout America and abroad.

In the 1960s, Bluhm was exploring relationships between swirling, loosely applied forms and unexpected arrangements of color. He used large brushes, soaked with vibrantly hued paint, and treated his work surface with enthusiasm and energy. This method produced works that were orgiastic in their dramatic intensity—bold, organically applied pigment insouciant in its application and outlook.

Critic John Dorfman called him “the greatest Abstract Expressionist painter you’ve never heard of. Or if you have heard of him, you’re part of a select group of aficionados who appreciate the multifaceted, challenging work of a painter who refused to be pinned down to any one school or style and kept working regardless of the shifting tides of the market and art-critical opinion.”

His place in the “new generation” of Abstract Expressionists links him with John Chamberlain and Joan Mitchell.

Bluhm died on February 3, 1999 in East Wallingford, VT. Today, his works are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., among others. 

Additional biographical sources: Artnet, Artsy

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(1899 - 1988)
Acclaimed for her development of a unique sculptural vocabulary and process, Louise Nevelson remained committed to innovation, experimentation, and her own personal artistic style for over five decades. Working within tradition of assemblage, she crafted abstract three-dimensional boxes, walls, totems and environments, comprised mostly of assembled found materials. The artist discovered her raw materials while walking the streets of New York, drawing cast-off debris from curbsides, dumps, and demolition sites. The found objects incorporated in her sculptures range from architectural remnants such as chair legs and balusters to scrap construction pieces revealing the ravages of tools and time.