The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Saturday, April 21, 2018

MFA Boston Acquires Three Paintings By 20th Century African-American Artists
Norman Lewis' Untitled. Courtesy of Swann Galleries.

BOSTON, MA.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), recently acquired three paintings by leading African-American artists of the 20th century at the African-American Fine Art Sale at Swann Auctions (NY): Untitled (about 1960–64) by Norman Lewis; The Juggler #1 (about 1964) by Hughie Lee-Smith; and 715 Washington Street (1947), by Walter Simon. The MFA purchased the Lewis for $312,000—the highest price ever realized at auction for an abstract work by an African American artist, and an auction record for any work by the artist. The Simon, which also set an auction record for the artist, was purchased with Museum funds raised by the MFA’s Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection—an art acquisition fund established in 2005 for the purpose of diversifying the Museum’s collection of American art.

“These recent purchases are in keeping with our commitment to deepen the MFA’s collection of 20th-century African-American art,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “We are particularly delighted to have acquired works by these three noteworthy artists, which will find a permanent home in the Museum’s new American Wing when it opens in late 2010.”

Untitled by Norman Lewis (1909–1979), is an exceptionally fine example of the artist’s abstract style of the 1950s and 1960s. The expansive composition and masterful rendering of color in a range of vibrant and ethereal passages evoke Lewis’s sophisticated contribution to the Abstract Expressionist movement, which he experienced first hand in New York City. Clusters of small figures created by calligraphic strokes of paint convey the artist’s concern with broader issues of individuality and society. Unlike many of Lewis’s works that suffered neglect, this pristine canvas was formerly owned by the important modern art collectors, Judge Edward R. and Rae O Dudley. Among his many accomplishments, Judge Dudley was the United States Ambassador to Liberia, the first African-American to hold the title of ambassador, and later Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. His wife Rae was a painter and connoisseur, who knew the artists whose works she collected and championed their careers. This Lewis was never publicly exhibited until it appeared at Swann Galleries. Lewis’s work is represented in major museums including the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The MFA, Boston has one early work by Lewis titled Harlem Jazz Jamboree (1943, Wein Collection), an energetic and expressionist painting that reflects a transition from Lewis’s earlier interest in Social Realism to his later abstractions incorporating multiple figures. Untitled represents the Museum’s only example of Lewis’s abstract work.

The Juggler #1 by Hughie Lee-Smith (1915–1999), is a premier example of the artist’s most recognizable and frequently discussed series of paintings from the mid-1960s, all of which are characterized by figures isolated within a bleak, decaying landscape. [Note: Often Lee-Smith includes multiple figures, as he does here.] His sense of personal and professional alienation—linked to the promise of American Dream and the harsh realities of racial prejudice—found visual expression in his jarring surrealist scenes of figures situated in barren landscapes, filled with mystery and haunting melancholy. Despite exceptional training and a lifetime of awards and honors, including his election as a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1967 and his one-man exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1969—which included Juggler #1, Lee-Smith did not receive widespread acclaim until the New Jersey State Museum organized a traveling retrospective in 1988. Since then, he has been celebrated as one of the leading African-American artists of the twentieth century and a major proponent of surrealism. His work can be found the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; the Detroit Art Institute, MI; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NY; the Parrish Art Museum, NY; Howard University, Washington, DC; and in many private collections. This is the first work by Lee-Smith to enter the MFA’s collection.

715 Washington Street by Walter Simon (1916–1979), an abstracted expression of urban life, is a cubist fusion of the colors and textures surrounding the Greenwich Village building where Simon lived while completing his undergraduate degree at New York University. Through a lively overlapping of planes and shapes, with dynamically contrasting surfaces—including a layer of sand--, the artist establishes the building as a living entity revealed by multilayered views. The composition suggests both the intimate spaces of private apartments and the artist’s mind, as well as the public façade of ground-level shops, railings, walls, and fire escapes.

Simon’s known body of work is small, making this painting and its original frame exceptionally rare. Though recognized as a leading artist early in his career—he took top honors in 1949, 1951, and 1953 at the Atlanta University Annual Exhibition of Black Artists, then the premier national venue for African American artists—his broader contribution to American art has not been fully acknowledged. Simon’s paintings can be found in the collections of Atlanta University and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This is the first work by Simon to enter the MFA’s collection.

“These extraordinary paintings will add great beauty and breadth to the collection of American art at the Museum of Fine Arts,, Boston” said Elliot Bostwick Davis, John Moors Cabot Chair, Art of the Americas at the MFA. “Norman Lewis was a major player in the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York, and the reaffirmation of his important role in the creation of such bold and brilliant compositions made this work extremely desirable. Hughie Lee-Smith, a distinguished artist and educator, is widely recognized for his powerful, surrealist scenes of isolation and anomie. Walter Simon exemplifies the experience of many African-American artists who remain under appreciated—his 715 Washington Street is a rich and complex self-portrait of a cityscape that inspired Simon’s journey into cubist-inspired abstraction. ”

In addition to these new paintings, the MFA’s collection includes the following recent acquisitions by African American artists: a clock (1979-1980) by Frank E. Cummings, III, 11 works on paper and 8 paintings by Loïs Mailou Jones, Interior of a Mosque, Cairo (1897) byHenry Ossawa Tanner, 20 pieces of studio jewelry by Art Smith from the Collection of Daphne Farago, as well as eight works from the Wein collection by James Richmond Barthé, Eldzier Cortor, Wifredo Lam, Norman Lewis, Augusta Savage, John Wilson, and Allan Crite. Crite’s painting Tire Jumping in Front of My Window (1935) was acquired with contributions from The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection, established through the generosity of members of the Museum’s Trustee/Overseer Diversity Advisory Committee.

Today's News

October 18, 2008

Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976 Opens in Saint Louis

Harvard Art Museum Receives Major Gift from Emily Rauh Pulitzer

A "New and Native" Beauty: The Art and Craft of Greene & Greene

From 1970: Austrian Art in the Albertina Opens in Vienna

Caught in the Act: The Viewer as Performer Opens at The National Gallery of Canada

Three Decades of the Art Critic Kim Levin at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art

The Clark Exhibits Rarely Seen Italian Drawings From the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries

Under the Influence: Art-Inspired Art Opens at Norton Simon Museum

Columbus Museum of Art Presents Currents: Peter Zimmermann

MFA Boston Acquires Three Paintings By 20th Century African-American Artists

Treasures of Japanese Painting Konpira-San - Sanctuary of the Sea at Guimet Museum

Sudley House Presents Exhibition of Paper Scultores Titled "Unfolding"

The Printed Picture Opens at The Museum of Modern Art

Rachels Whiteread's Dramatic Installation, Place (Village) at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Sunny West Coast Regionalism Explored in Watercolors Given By Philip H. Greene

Speed Art Museum Unveils New Acquisitions In Collecting for Kentucky

Michener Art Museum Presents Claus Mroczynski's Photographs of Native American Places

Groundbreaking Exhibition of the New-York Historical Society Re-Examines the Civil War

Gerda Taro Opens at Barbican Art Gallery, London

FIAF Celebrates Annual Trophée des Arts Gala

Call Out For An International Collaborative Project

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- John Surtees' one-owner 1957 BMW 507 to be offered for the first time at Bonhams Festival of Speed sale

2.- Antiques looted in Libya by IS sold in Spain, two experts arrested

3.- The world's oldest bridge to be preserved by the British Museum's Iraq Scheme

4.- Exquisite jewels dazzle in historic Cartier exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia

5.- Now showing in US cinemas: "Hitler VS Picasso and The Others" directed by Claudio Poli

6.- New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art returns stolen idols to Nepal

7.- Glasgow starts a year of celebration as Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition opens

8.- Very rare Qing Dynasty bowl sells for $30.4 million

9.- Gardner Museum publishes "Stolen" book about 13 works in 1990 theft

10.- Royal Ontario Museum announces appointment of Curator, Islamic Art & Culture

Related Stories

Important Judaica and Israeli & international art bring a combined $7.9 million at Sotheby's New York

Tunisia to auction ousted despot's treasures

Andy Warhol's Mao portraits excluded from the Beijing and Shanghai shows next year

China criticises French Qing dynasty seal auction

Christie's announces auction marking the first half century of the popular and luxurious interiors shop Guinevere

Nine new exhibits debut at San Diego International Airport

Rembrandt masterpiece "Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet" back on display at National Museum Cardiff

Amber: 40-million-year-old fossilised tree resin is Baltic gold

Egyptian artist Iman Issa wins the Ist FHN Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona Award

The main chapel of the Basilica of Santa Croce open for visits after five year restoration

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful