Back to Ab­stract

An ex­hi­bi­tion at Heli­cline Fine Art ex­plores one facet of James Daugh­erty’s di­verse ca­reer

American Fine Art Magazine - - Gallery Preview: New York, Ny -

James Daugh­erty (1889-1974) stud­ied at the Penn­syl­va­nia Acad­emy of the Fine Arts with William Mer­ritt Chase, ab­sorbed the ideas of Euro­pean modernism at

the 1913 Ar­mory Show, had a stu­dio next to Arthur B. Frost Jr. who had formed the syn­chromist move­ment with Mor­gan Rus­sell and Stanton Mac­don­ald-wright, painted mu­rals for the WPA and was an award-winning chil­dren’s book writer and il­lus­tra­tor. Heli­cline Fine Art in Newyork City fo­cused on one of the as­pects of Daugh­erty’s var­ied ca­reer in the ex­hi­bi­tion James Daugh­erty: ab­stract Color Paint­ings & Pas­tels from the 1950s & 1960s.

The gallery notes, “in 1953, Daugh­erty once again be­gan to cre­ate ab­stract paint­ings.the first of th­ese works, small images with rel­a­tively sta­ble com­po­si­tions and sub­dued pal­ettes, sug­gest the in­flu­ence of the work of Piet Mon­drian. By the end to the decade, Daugh­erty had ex­panded to larger for­mats and had bro­ken from the grid to cre­ate in­creas­ingly com­plex de­signs. In the years that fol­lowed, he al­ter­nated modes, of­ten join­ing his old rec­ti­lin­ear for­mat of ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal with cir­cles and fre­quently using a lighter, more refined painterly touch and lay­ered, al­most transparen­t color planes that re­call the color veils of

Mark Rothko’s art.

“By the mid-1960s Daugh­erty’s work reached a peak of size, com­plex­ity and color in­ten­sity.the ex­plo­sive en­er­gies of th­ese paint­ings put into phys­i­cal form what Daugh­erty called the ‘out rush­ing forces of the cos­mos’ in an ‘ever ex­pand­ing in­fini­tude.’ Fus­ing the old and the con­tem­po­rary, Daugh­erty re­ferred both to early modernism and to the ab­stract il­lu­sion­ism de­vel­oped by younger artists in the 1960s such as Frank Stella, al Held and Ron Davis.”

At around the time of the Ar­mory Show, Daugh­erty dis­cov­ered C. Lewis Hind’s book The Post Im­pres­sion­ists, pub­lished in 1911. He then “went mod­ern with a vengeance,” he said. He later adopted a more fig­u­ra­tive style and went into il­lus­tra­tion. He would do a dozen or so pre­lim­i­nary draw­ings be­fore set­ting out on the fi­nal paint­ing but re­al­ized: “the first half dozen lines have ev­ery­thing in it. It has the essence.”

His mo­ti­va­tion for re­turn­ing to ab­strac­tion in 1953 isn’t known, but he con­tin­ued to paint, to ex­per­i­ment and to find ways through his paint­ing to “re­store mean­ing to life and an­nounce its beauty and ca­pac­ity.” He ref­er­enced his early work as well as the prin­ci­ples of syn­chromism and pushed it fur­ther.the syn­chromists cre­ated form and space with color. Mon­drian wrote, “ev­ery­thing is ex­pressed through re­la­tion­ship. Colour can ex­ist only through other colours, di­men­sion through other di­men­sions, po­si­tion through other po­si­tions that op­pose them. that is why I re­gard re­la­tion­ship as the prin­ci­pal thing. ”as the gallery notes, Mon­drian’s in­flu­ence is ev­i­dent in Daugh­erty’s Ab­strac­tion, which isn’t dated. In The Joy of Red, he cel­e­brates color it­self. In the 1940s, Daugh­erty said mod­ern art in gen­eral, is “lib­er­at­ing and ex­pan­sive, rous­ing and free­ing hu­man con­scious­ness from ma­te­ri­al­ism to infinite pos­si­bil­i­ties of liv­ing, cre­at­ing universal har­mony, en­ergy and re­newal.”

Works in the ex­hi­bi­tion are from the artist’s es­tate.

James Daugh­erty (1887-1974), Ab­strac­tion. Oil on panel, 11¾ x 13¾ in., es­tate stamp verso. Op­po­site page: James Daugh­erty (1887-1974), The Joy of Red. Oil on panel, 30 x 18 in., es­tate stamp verso.

James Daugh­erty (1887-1974), White Whale. Oil on panel, 24 x 20 in. Signed on verso by Charles Daugh­erty, the artist’s son; es­tate stamp verso. All photos by Noah Mor­gen­stein.

James Daugh­erty (1887-1974), Un­ti­tled, 1967. Pas­tel on pa­per, 15 x 21½ in., signed lower left.

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