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Past Exhibitions

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 11, 2017 - October 13, 2017


The Woman Question

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka

March 14, 2017 - June 30, 2017


You Say You Want a Revolution

American Artists and the Communist Party

October 18, 2016 - March 4, 2017


Recent Acquisitions

July 12, 2016 - October 7, 2016


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Featuring Watercolors and Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection

March 29, 2016 - July 1, 2016


Paula Modersohn-Becker

Art and Life

November 3, 2015 - March 19, 2016


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 21, 2015 - October 16, 2015


Leonard Baskin

Wunderkammer

April 23, 2015 - July 2, 2015


Alternate Histories

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

January 15, 2015 - April 11, 2015


Marie-Louise Motesiczky

The Mother Paintings

October 7, 2014 - December 24, 2014


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014


Ilija/Mangelos

Father & Son, Inside & Out

April 24, 2014 - July 3, 2014


Modern Furies

The Lessons and Legacy of World War I

January 21, 2014 - April 12, 2014


Käthe Kollwitz

The Complete Print Cycles

October 8, 2013 - December 28, 2013


Käthe Kollwitz

The Complete Print Cycles

October 8, 2013 - December 28, 2013


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013


Face Time

Self and Identity in Expressionist Portraiture

April 9, 2013 - June 28, 2013


Story Lines

Tracing the Narrative of "Outsider" Art

January 15, 2013 - March 30, 2013


Egon Schiele's Women

October 23, 2012 - December 28, 2012


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 17, 2012 - October 13, 2012


Mad As Hell!

New Work (and Some Classics) by Sue Coe

April 17, 2012 - July 3, 2012


The Ins and Outs of Self-Taught Art

Reflections on a Shifting Field

January 10, 2012 - April 7, 2012


The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 5, 2011 - September 30, 2011


Decadence & Decay

Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz

April 12, 2011 - June 24, 2011


Self-Taught Painters in American 1800-1950

Revisiting the Tradition

January 11, 2011 - April 2, 2011


Marie-Louise Motesiczky

Paradise Lost & Found

October 12, 2010 - December 30, 2010


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 13, 2010 - October 1, 2010


Käthe Kollwitz

A Portrait of the Artist

April 13, 2010 - June 25, 2010


Seventy Years Grandma Moses

A Loan Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Artist's "Discovery"

February 3, 2010 - April 3, 2010


Egon Schiele as Printmaker

A Loan Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 3, 2009 - January 23, 2010


From Brücke To Bauhaus

The Meanings of Modernity in Germany, 1905-1933

March 31, 2009 - June 26, 2009


They Taught Themselves

American Self-Taught Painters Between the World Wars

January 9, 2009 - March 14, 2009


Elephants We Must Never Forget

New Paintings Drawings and Prints by Sue Coe

October 14, 2008 - December 20, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2008 - September 26, 2008


Hope or Menace?

Communism in Germany Between the World Wars

March 25, 2008 - June 13, 2008


Transforming Reality

Pattern and Design in Modern and Self-Taught Art

January 15, 2008 - March 8, 2008


Leonard Baskin

Proofs and Process

October 9, 2007 - January 5, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007


Who Paid the Piper?

The Art of Patronage in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

March 8, 2007 - May 26, 2007


Fairy Tale, Myth and Fantasy

Approaches to Spirituality in Art

December 7, 2006 - February 3, 2007


More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 6, 2006 - September 8, 2006


Parallel Visions II

"Outsider" and "Insider" Art Today

April 5, 2006 - May 26, 2006


Ilija!

His First American Exhibtion

January 17, 2006 - March 18, 2006


Coming of Age

Egon Schiele and the Modernist Culture of Youth

November 15, 2005 - January 7, 2006


Sue Coe:

Sheep of Fools

September 20, 2005 - November 5, 2005


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

June 7, 2005 - September 9, 2005


Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part II

Self-Taught Artists

January 18, 2005 - March 26, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part I

Austrian and German Expressionism

October 28, 2004 - January 8, 2005


Sue Coe: Bully: Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round and Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 8, 2004 - October 16, 2004


Animals & Us

The Animal in Contemporary Art

April 1, 2004 - May 22, 2004


Henry Darger

Art and Myth

January 15, 2004 - March 20, 2004


Body and Soul

Expressionism and the Human Figure

October 7, 2003 - January 3, 2004


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2003 - September 12, 2003


In Search of the "Total Artwork"

Viennese Art and Design 1897–1932

April 8, 2003 - June 14, 2003


Russia's Self-Taught Artists

A New Perspective on the "Outsider"

January 14, 2003 - March 29, 2003


Käthe Kollwitz:

Master Printmaker

October 1, 2002 - January 4, 2003


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002


Workers of the World

Modern Images of Labor

April 2, 2002 - June 15, 2002


Grandma Moses

Reflections of America

January 15, 2002 - March 16, 2002


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoscha

From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

November 23, 2001 - January 5, 2002


The "Black-and-White" Show

Expressionist Graphics in Austria & Germany

September 20, 2001 - November 10, 2001


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001


Art with an Agenda

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001


"Our Beautiful and Tormented Austria!": Art Brut in the Land of Freud

January 18, 2001 - March 17, 2001


The Tragedy of War

November 16, 2000 - January 6, 2001


The Expressionist City

September 19, 2000 - November 4, 2000


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 20, 2000 - September 8, 2000


From Façade to Psyche

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000


European Self-Taught Art

Brut or Naive?

January 18, 2000 - March 11, 2000


Saved From Europe

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 6, 1999 - January 8, 2000


The Modern Child

(Images of Children in Twentieth-Century Art)

September 14, 1999 - November 6, 1999


Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999


Sue Coe: The Pit

The Tragical Tale of the Rise and Fall of a Vivisector

March 30, 1999 - June 5, 1999


Henry Darger and His Realms

January 14, 1999 - March 13, 1999


Becoming Käthe Kollwitz

An Artist and Her Influences

November 17, 1998 - December 31, 1998


George Grosz - Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

Art & Gender in Weimar Germany

September 23, 1998 - November 11, 1998


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)

June 9, 1998 - September 11, 1998


Taboo

Repression and Revolt in Modern Art

March 26, 1998 - May 30, 1998


Sacred & Profane

Michel Nedjar and Expressionist Primitivism

January 13, 1998 - March 14, 1998


Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Master Draughtsman

November 18, 1997 - January 3, 1998


The New Objectivity

Realism in Weimar-Era Germany

September 16, 1997 - November 8, 1997


Recent Acquisitions

A Question of Quality

June 10, 1997 - September 5, 1997


Käthe Kollwitz - Lea Grundig

Two German Women & The Art of Protest

March 25, 1997 - May 31, 1997


That Way Madness Lies

Expressionism and the Art of Gugging

January 14, 1997 - March 15, 1997


The Viennese Line

Art and Design Circa 1900

November 18, 1996 - January 4, 1997


Emil Nolde - Christian Rohlfs

Two German Expressionist Masters

September 24, 1996 - November 9, 1996


Breaking All The Rules

Art in Transition

June 11, 1996 - September 6, 1996


Sue Coe's Ship of Fools

March 26, 1996 - May 24, 1996


New York Folk

Lawrence Lebduska, Abraham Levin, Isreal Litwak

January 16, 1996 - March 16, 1996


The Fractured Form

Expressionism and the Human Body

November 15, 1995 - January 6, 1996


From Left to Right

Social Realism in Germany and Russia, Circa 1919-1933

September 19, 1995 - November 4, 1995


Recent Acquisitions

June 20, 1995 - September 8, 1995


On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995


Earl Cummingham - Grandma Moses

Visions of America

January 17, 1995 - March 18, 1995


Drawn to Text: Comix Artists as Book Illustrators

November 15, 1994 - January 7, 1995


Three Berlin Artists of the Weimar Era: Hannah Höch, Käthe Kollwitz, Jeanne Mam

September 13, 1994 - November 5, 1994


55th Anniversary Exhibition in Memory of Otto Kallir

June 7, 1994 - September 2, 1994


Sue Coe: We All Fall Down

March 29, 1994 - May 27, 1994


The Forgotten Folk Art of the 1940's

January 18, 1994 - March 19, 1994


Symbolism and the Austrian Avant Garde

Klimt, Schiele and their Contemporaries

November 16, 1993 - January 8, 1994


Art and Politics in Weimar Germany

September 14, 1993 - November 6, 1993


Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993


The "Outsider" Question

Non-Academic Art from 1900 to the Present

March 23, 1993 - May 28, 1993


The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993


Art Spiegelman

The Road to Maus

November 17, 1992 - January 9, 1993


Käthe Kollwitz

In Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth

September 15, 1992 - November 7, 1992


Naive Visions/Art Nouveau and Expressionism/Sue Coe: The Road to the White House

May 19, 1992 - September 4, 1992


Richard Gerstl/Oskar Kokoschka

March 17, 1992 - May 9, 1992


Scandal, Outrage, Censorship

Controversy in Modern Art

January 21, 1992 - March 7, 1992


Viennese Graphic Design

From Secession to Expressionism

November 19, 1991 - January 11, 1992


The Expressionist Figure

September 10, 1991 - November 9, 1991


Recent Acquisitions

Themes and Variations

May 14, 1991 - August 16, 1991


Sue Coe Retrospective

Political Document of a Decade

March 12, 1991 - May 5, 1991


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, drawings and prints

January 22, 1991 - March 2, 1991


Egon Schiele

November 13, 1990 - January 12, 1991


Lovis Corinth

A Retrospective

September 11, 1990 - November 3, 1990


Recent Acquisitions

June 12, 1990 - August 31, 1990


Max Klinger, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin

A Study in Influences

March 27, 1990 - June 2, 1990


The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990


Grandma Moses

November 14, 1989 - January 13, 1990


Sue Coe

Porkopolis--Animals and Industry

September 19, 1989 - November 4, 1989


The Galerie St. Etienne

A History in Documents and Pictures

June 20, 1989 - September 8, 1989


Gustav Klimt

Paintings and Drawings

April 11, 1989 - June 10, 1989


Fifty Years Galerie St. Etienne: An Overview

February 14, 1989 - April 1, 1989


Folk Artists at Work

Morris Hirshfield, John Kane and Grandma Moses

November 15, 1988 - January 14, 1989


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

June 14, 1988 - September 16, 1988


From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

April 12, 1988 - May 27, 1988


Three Pre-Expressionists

Lovis Corinth Käthe Kollwitz Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 26, 1988 - March 12, 1988


Käthe Kollwitz

The Power of the Print

November 17, 1987 - January 16, 1988


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

April 7, 1987 - October 31, 1987


Folk Art of This Century

February 10, 1987 - March 28, 1987


Oskar Kokoschka and His Time

November 25, 1986 - January 31, 1987


Viennese Design and Wiener Werkstätte

September 23, 1986 - November 8, 1986


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, Drawings and Prints

May 27, 1986 - September 13, 1986


Expressionist Painters

March 25, 1986 - May 10, 1986


Käthe Kollwitz/Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 28, 1986 - March 15, 1986


The Art of Giving

December 3, 1985 - January 18, 1986


Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985


European and American Landscapes

June 4, 1985 - September 13, 1985


Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985


Expressionist Masters

January 18, 1985 - March 23, 1985


Arnold Schoenberg's Vienna

November 13, 1984 - January 5, 1985


Grandma Moses and Selected Folk Paintings

September 25, 1984 - November 3, 1984


American Folk Art

People, Places and Things

June 12, 1984 - September 14, 1984


John Kane

Modern America's First Folk Painter

April 17, 1984 - May 25, 1984


Eugène Mihaesco

The Illustrator as Artist

February 28, 1984 - April 7, 1984


Early Expressionist Masters

January 17, 1984 - February 18, 1984


Paula Modersohn-Becker

Germany's Pioneer Modernist

November 15, 1983 - January 7, 1984


Gustav Klimt

Drawings and Selected Paintings

September 20, 1983 - November 5, 1983


Early and Late

Drawings, Paintings & Prints from Academicism to Expressionism

June 1, 1983 - September 2, 1983


Alfred Kubin

Visions From The Other Side

March 22, 1983 - May 7, 1983


20th Century Folk

The First Generation

January 18, 1983 - March 12, 1983


Grandma Moses

The Artist Behind the Myth

November 15, 1982 - January 8, 1983


Käthe Kollwitz

The Artist as Printmaker

September 28, 1982 - November 6, 1982


Aspects of Modernism

June 1, 1982 - September 3, 1982


The Human Perspective

Recent Acquisitions

March 16, 1982 - May 15, 1982


19th and 20th Century European and American Folk Art

January 19, 1982 - March 6, 1982


The Folk Art Tradition

Naïve Painting in Europe and the United States

November 17, 1981 - January 9, 1982


Austria's Expressionism

April 21, 1981 - May 30, 1981


Eugène Mihaesco

His First American One-Man Show

March 3, 1981 - April 11, 1981


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele

November 12, 1980 - December 27, 1980


Summer Exhibition

June 17, 1980 - October 31, 1980


Kollwitz: The Drawing and The Print

May 1, 1980 - June 10, 1980


40th Anniversary Exhibition

November 13, 1979 - December 28, 1979


American Primitive Art

November 22, 1977


Käthe Kollwitz

December 1, 1976


Neue Galerie-Galerie St. Etienne

A Documentary Exhibition

May 1, 1976


Martin Pajeck

January 27, 1976


Georges Rouault and Frans Masereel

April 29, 1972


Branko Paradis

December 1, 1971


Käthe Kollwitz

February 3, 1971


Egon Schiele

The Graphic Work

October 19, 1970


Gustav Klimt

March 20, 1970


Friedrich Hundertwasser

May 6, 1969


Austrian Art of the 20th Century

March 21, 1969


Egon Schiele

Memorial Exhibition

October 31, 1968


Yugoslav Primitive Art

April 30, 1968


Alfred Kubin

January 30, 1968


Käthe Kollwitz

In the Cause of Humanity

October 23, 1967


Abraham Levin

September 26, 1967


Karl Stark

April 5, 1967


Gustav Klimt

February 4, 1967


The Wiener Werkstätte

November 16, 1966


Oskar Laske

October 25, 1965


Käthe Kollwitz

May 1, 1965


Egon Schiele

Watercolors and Drawings from American Collections

March 1, 1965


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part II

November 21, 1964


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

October 17, 1964


Mary Urban

June 9, 1964


Werner Berg, Jane Muus and Mura Dehn

May 5, 1964


Eugen Spiro

April 4, 1964


B. F. Dolbin

Drawings of an Epoch

March 3, 1964


Austrian Expressionists

January 6, 1964


Joseph Rifesser

December 3, 1963


Panorama of Yugoslav Primitive Art

October 21, 1963


Joe Henry

Watercolors of Vermont

May 1, 1963


French Impressionists

March 8, 1963


Grandma Moses

Memorial Exhibition

November 26, 1962


Group Show

October 15, 1962


Ernst Barlach

March 23, 1962


Martin Pajeck

February 24, 1962


Paintings by Expressionists

January 27, 1962


Käthe Kollwitz

November 11, 1961


Grandma Moses

September 7, 1961


My Friends

Fourth Biennial of Pictures by American School Children

May 27, 1961


Raimonds Staprans

April 17, 1961


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin

March 14, 1961


Marvin Meisels

January 23, 1961


Egon Schiele

November 15, 1960


My Life's History

Paintings by Grandma Moses

September 12, 1960


Watercolors and Drawings by Austrian Artists from the Dial Collection

May 2, 1960


Martin Pajeck

February 29, 1960


Eugen Spiro

February 6, 1960


Käthe Kollwitz

December 14, 1959


Josef Scharl

Last Paintings and Drawings

November 11, 1959


European and American Expressionists

September 22, 1959


Our Town

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

May 23, 1959


Marvin Meisels and Martin Pajeck

May 1, 1959


Gustav Klimt

April 1, 1959


Käthe Kollwitz

January 12, 1959


Oskar Kokoschka

October 28, 1958


Village Life in Guatemala

Paintings by Andres Curuchich

June 3, 1958


Two Unknown American Expressionists

Paintings by Marvin Meisels and Martin Pajeck

April 28, 1958


Paula Modersohn-Becker

March 15, 1958


The Great Tradition in American Painting

American Primitive Art

January 20, 1958


Jules Lefranc and Dominique Lagru

Two French Primitives

November 18, 1957


Margret Bilger

October 22, 1957


The Four Seasons

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

June 11, 1957


Grandma Moses

May 6, 1957


Alfred Kubin

April 3, 1957


Franz Lerch

March 2, 1957


Egon Schiele

January 21, 1957


Josef Scharl

Memorial Exhibition

November 17, 1956


Irma Rothstein

May 19, 1956


Käthe Kollwitz

April 16, 1956


A Tribute to Grandma Moses

November 28, 1955


As I See Myself

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

May 20, 1955


Juan De'Prey

April 19, 1955


Erich Heckel

March 29, 1955


Freddy Homburger

March 2, 1955


Masters of the 19th Century

January 18, 1955


Oskar Kokoschka

November 29, 1954


Isabel Case Borgatta and Josef Scharl

October 12, 1954


James N. Rosenberg and Eugen Spiro

April 30, 1954


Per Krogh

April 2, 1954


Cuno Amiet

February 16, 1954


Eniar Jolin

January 14, 1954


Irma Rothstein

December 8, 1953


Josef Scharl

November 11, 1953


Grandma Moses

October 21, 1953 - October 24, 1953


Wilhelm Kaufmann

September 30, 1953


Lovis Corinth, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

May 27, 1953


A Grandma Moses Album

Recent Paintings, 1950-1953

April 15, 1953


Streeter Blair

American Primitive

February 26, 1953


Paintings on Glass

Austrian Religious Folk Art of the 17th to 19th Centuries

December 4, 1952


Hasan Kaptan

Paintings of a Ten-Year-Old Turkish Painter

October 29, 1952


Margret Bilger

May 10, 1952


American Natural Painters

March 31, 1952


Ten Years of New York Concert Impressions by Eugen Spiro; Four New Paintings by

January 26, 1952


I-Fa-Wei

Watercolors of New York by a Chinese Artist

December 1, 1951


Käthe Kollwitz

October 25, 1951


Drawings and Watercolors by Austrian Children

May 21, 1951


Grandma Moses

Twenty-Five Masterpieces of Primitive Art

March 17, 1951


Roswitha Bitterlich

January 18, 1951


Oskar Laske

Watercolors of Vienna and the Salzkammergut

October 14, 1950


Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

Part II

May 11, 1950


Austrian Art of the 19th Century

From Wadlmüller to Klimt

April 1, 1950


Chiao Ssu-Tu

February 18, 1950


Anton Faistauer

January 1, 1950


Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

November 30, 1949


Autograph Exhibition

October 26, 1949


Gladys Wertheim Bachrach

May 24, 1949


Oskar Kokoschka

March 30, 1949


Eugen Spiro

February 19, 1949


Frans Masereel

January 13, 1949


Ten Years Grandma Moses

November 22, 1948


Käthe Kollwitz

Masterworks

October 18, 1948


American Primitives

June 3, 1948


Egon Schiele

Memorial Exhibition

April 5, 1948


Miriam Richman

February 7, 1948


Vally Wieselthier

Memorial Exhibition

January 10, 1948


Christmas Exhibition

December 4, 1947


Fritz von Unruh

November 10, 1947


Käthe Kollwitz

October 4, 1947


Grandma Moses

May 17, 1947


Lovis Corinth

April 16, 1947


Hugo Steiner-Prag

March 15, 1947


Mark Baum

January 11, 1947


Eugen Spiro

November 25, 1946


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

May 17, 1946


Ladis W. Sabo

Paintings by a New Primitive Artist

April 8, 1946


Georges Rouault

The Graphic Work

February 26, 1946


Käthe Kollwitz

Memorial Exhibition

November 21, 1945


Fred E. Robertson

Paintings by an American Primitive

June 13, 1945


Max Liebermann

The Graphic Work

April 18, 1945


Vienna through Four Centuries

March 1, 1945


Eugen Spiro

January 20, 1945


Grandma Moses

New Paintings

December 5, 1944


Käthe Kollwitz

Part II

October 26, 1944


A Century of French Graphic Art

From Géricault to Picasso

September 28, 1944


Max Liebermann

Memorial Exhibition

June 9, 1944


Juan De'Prey

Paintings by a Self-Taught Artist from Puerto Rico

May 6, 1944


Abraham Levin

April 15, 1944


Lesser Ury

Memorial Exhibition

March 21, 1944


Grandma Moses

Paintings by the Senior of the American Primitives

February 9, 1944


Betty Lane

January 11, 1944


WaIt Disney Cavalcade

December 9, 1943


Käthe Kollwitz

Part I

November 3, 1943


Will Barnet

September 29, 1943


Lovis Corinth

May 26, 1943


Josephine Joy

Paintings by an American Primitive

May 3, 1943


Oskar Kokoschka

Aspects of His Art

March 31, 1943


Eugen Spiro

February 13, 1943


Seymour Lipton

January 18, 1943


Illuminated Gothic Woodcuts

Printed and Painted, 1477-1493

December 5, 1942


Abraham Levin

November 4, 1942


Walt Disney Originals

September 23, 1942


Documents which Relate History

Documents of Historical Importance and Landmarks of Human Development

June 10, 1942


Honoré Daumier

April 29, 1942


Bertha Trabich

Memorial Exhibition of a Russian-American Primitive

March 25, 1942


Alfred Kubin

Master of Drawing

December 4, 1941


Egon Schiele

November 7, 1941


Betty Lane

June 3, 1941


Flowers from Old Vienna

18th and Early 19th Century Flower Painting

May 7, 1941


Weavings by Navaho and Hopi Indians and Photos of Indians by Helen M. Post

January 29, 1941


Georg Merkel

November 7, 1940


What a Farm Wife Painted

Works by Mrs. Anna Mary Moses

October 9, 1940


Saved from Europe

Masterpieces of European Art

July 1, 1940


American Abstract Art

May 22, 1940


Franz Lerch

May 1, 1940


Wilhelm Thöny

April 3, 1940


French Masters of the 19th and 20th Centuries

February 29, 1940


H. W. Hannau

Metropolis, Photographic Studies of New York

February 2, 1940


Oskar Kokoschka

January 9, 1940


Austrian Masters

November 13, 1939


FAIRY TALE, MYTH AND FANTASY

Approaches to Spirituality in Art

December 7, 2006 - February 3, 2007

ARTISTS

Basicevic, Ilija Bosilj

Baskin, Leonard

Bazile, Castera

Bellande, Francois

Chagall, Marc

Corinth, Lovis

Darger, Henry

Evans, Minnie

Gill, Madge

Griebler, Matthias

Klee, Paul

Kokoschka, Oskar

Kubin, Alfred

Leonov, Pavel

Morgan, Sister Gertrude

Nedjar, Michel

Nolde, Emil

Pechstein, Hermann Max

Picasso, Pablo

Romanenkov, Vasilij

Rouault, Georges

Schröder-Sonnenstern, F.

Smith, Kiki

Wilson, Scottie

Zharkikh, Rosa

ESSAY

Spirituality means different things to different people, for there are many ways to engage the invisible and never completely knowable forces that may lie beyond our material existence. From earliest prehistoric times, art has served as an adjunct to the spiritual quest, codifying ancient myths and rituals in order to access the supernatural. Many modern and contemporary artists have remained keenly interested in spiritual content, but the creation of immediately recognizable, overtly religious imagery declined precipitously in the twentieth century. Formalist critical discourse, the power of the capitalist marketplace and the perennial academicization of the avant garde all conspired to seemingly rob mainstream art of what Wassily Kandinsky termed its “inner necessity.” Interest in the work of self-taught artists initially developed as an antidote to this perceived deadening of the creative spirit. Through all its varied manifestations over the last century—from the “naive” to Art Brut, “folk” and “outsider” art—the paradigm of the unschooled artist served as a repository for the ideals of expressive intensity and authenticity. These ideals are exemplified by the popular use of the term “visionary” to describe self-taught artists, most notably by Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum. There are, however, two significant problems with this approach. On the one hand, it implies that trained artists are not capable of visionary creativity, while on the other it implicitly denigrates spiritual content as the domain of society’s “outsiders.”

 

There is little question that the spiritual component in mainstream modern European and American art has been downplayed and often entirely ignored. To some extent, this phenomenon can be traced back to the Reformation, which banned religious icons from Protestant churches. By the late nineteenth century, however, industrialization and modern science had precipitated a full-blown spiritual crisis throughout Western Europe. Traditional Christianity appeared too stale, too familiar, and worst of all, too closely associated with the curse of bourgeois materialism to offer a viable solution to this crisis. As a result, some intellectuals became atheists or agnostics. Others experimented with alternative forms of spiritualism, such as Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Rosicrucianism, mysticism, the occult and Eastern religions. Kandinsky hoped that, after a period of upheaval, these disparate forces would eventually give birth to a “great epoch of the Spiritual.” His goal, formulated both in his famous treatise On the Spiritual in Art and in his own paintings, was to create a new kind of monumental art appropriate to that epoch.

 

There were, Kandinsky believed, two ways to invest art with spiritual authenticity: “total realism” (by which he meant the complete absence of artifice) and “total abstraction” (by which he meant the absence of recognizable subject matter). Total realism, theoretically, was exemplified by naïfs such as Henri Rousseau, whereas the path Kandinsky chose for himself was abstraction, because it promised a more complete renunciation of materialism. While not every early-twentieth-century artist was prepared to go as far as Kandinsky in relinquishing representationalism, all modernists shared a desire to reinvigorate art by inventing a new pictorial language. With this new language, old subjects—whether secular, religious or more broadly mystical—could be seen afresh. It is ironic that, to further his political agenda, Hitler later accused artists such as Hermann Max Pechstein, Oskar Kokoschka and Emil Nolde of blasphemy, when they were actually attempting to revitalize Christian iconography.

 

Though the early modernists did not hide their spiritual preoccupations, the fact that these artists employed an arcane formal vocabulary made their spiritualism less than obvious to the uninitiated. Abstract art, in particular, was open to many interpretations, and as the twentieth century progressed, these interpretations veered away from the spiritual. Some of the same mystical crosscurrents that had nurtured modern artists could be discerned in the Nazi concept of the “master race.” Both anti-fascism and the anti-communism of the postwar period fostered a predisposition toward content-free art. Abstraction, the antithesis of the left-leaning figurative art common in the 1920s and ‘30s, fit the bill. Alfred Barr, the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art, and the critic Clement Greenberg devised histories of modernism based on purely formalist criteria. Ignoring the spiritual concerns of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, Harold Rosenberg lauded Abstract Expressionism for its dearth of content: “The gesture on the canvas was a gesture of liberations, from Value—political, aesthetic, moral.”

 

By denying or denigrating the spiritual content of modern art, postwar American critics created a cult of “art for art’s sake” that abetted the very materialism many artists had ardently sought to escape. Art became a commodity with a mundane, readily decoded message, rather than a vector for inherently ineffable mystical experiences. Furthermore, the apotheosis of abstraction meant that attempts to depict spiritual subjects through more conventional representational means were considered retrograde and trivial. This aesthetic marginalization of the spiritual paralleled the broader marginalization of religion in an increasingly secular world. Politically, the separation of church from state and the necessity for tolerance in a multicultural society have made religious faith a personal, private matter. Scientifically, the explanations put forth in the Bible and other religious texts are constantly being challenged by discoveries in such fields as biology, physics and astronomy. While the feasibility of reconciling scientific and religious faith remains open to debate, the fact is that the contemporary world offers a variety of compelling organizational schema that are not inherently spiritual in nature. Sociology, psychology, anthropology and other disciplines provide ways of interpreting existential phenomena that once would have been the sole purview of priests or shamen.

 

Situated within an essentially secular context, the lingering hunger for spiritual authenticity in art creates paradoxes that are not easily resolved. In the absence of a single shared faith, it can be difficult for an artist to communicate spiritually with his or her audience. Yet we are rightly wary of the totalitarianism that shared faith can generate, whether through political ideologies, like fascism and communism, or through religious fundamentalism. When taken to dogmatic extremes, spirituality can be dangerous. We effectively defuse it by confining our interest in religious art to work created by “outsiders.” Alternatively, spiritual art is often secularized; that is, interpreted in a fashion that maintains the art’s existential relevance while down-playing the potentially divisive particulars of a given faith.

 

The psychologist C. G. Jung was one of the first and greatest theoreticians to devise a framework for understanding spirituality in a secular context. He postulated the existence of a collective unconscious: an innate universal repository of repressed feelings and psychic experiences that form the basis of all spiritual manifestations. In order to reconcile these subjective feelings with their objective experiences of the world, according to Jung, primitive humans created archetypes—conscious manifestations of primordial unconscious content—that were recorded in myths and fairy tales. Insofar as both myths and fairy tales derived from unconscious content, which often came to the surface through dreams or hallucinations, there was originally little to distinguish the two genres. However, as these stories were shaped by retelling over time, myths and fairy tales acquired slightly different cultural overlays. Whereas both story forms incorporate extra-ordinary magical forces, myths feature heroic characters who encounter the divine on earth, while the protagonists of fairy tales are usually every-day human beings. As the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim noted, fairy tales allow children, through personal identification, to deal with their anxieties and establish the foundations of moral awareness. Myths, on the other hand, offer sweeping, sacred explanations of how things came to be the way they are, and crucial information on how to live in harmony with the world.

 

Mythology is inherently rooted in the sacred, but the word “myth” has by now been so thoroughly de-sanctified that it has become synonymous with “falsehood.” The de-sanctifying of the myths that were once central to Greek and Roman religion began more than five centuries before the birth of Christ. Having lost faith in the holiness of their gods, the ancient Greeks and Romans transformed their mythology into literature. The myths remained pertinent as allegory but not as literal truth. A similar choice between interpretations of the Bible as literal or allegorical truth confronts Judeo-Christian believers today. Nevertheless, the archetypes preserved in Judeo-Christian theology, as well as those in older or non-Western mythologies, survive, alongside the more wholly secular archetypes found in fairy tales. The universality of these archetypes forms the basis for a common spiritual language that artists everywhere can dip into.

 

Not surprisingly, a lot of overtly spiritual art derives from entrenched traditions of sacred imagery. The contemporary artist Kiki Smith, raised a Catholic, feels that, “Catholicism and art have gone well together, because both believe in the physical manifestation of the spiritual world.” Smith gravitates to the more atavistic aspects of Catholicism: its visceral connections to the human body, the practical interventions of saints, and the embodiment of the sacred in animals and the natural environment. While Protestant theologians at one time feared that Catholic altars and icons could encourage idolatry, they condoned the use of Bible illustrations to teach the largely illiterate African-American population in the post-bellum South. These were the images that nurtured the self-styled Baptist preacher Sister Gertrude Morgan, who made art a central part of her New Orleans ministry.

 

The important role played by art in African religions has arguably conditioned the spiritually-inflected work of many self-taught artists of African descent. African religions tend to view the human body as a piece of sculpture brought to life by the soul. Souls do not die when the body dies, but rather can be reborn or communicate with the living through spirit mediums. The African-American artist Minnie Evans is a good example of how such spirit visitations can inspire art that is nonetheless wholly informed by Christian theology. In Haiti, on the other hand, where slaves and their descendants came to outnumber the white colonizers who originally brought them from Africa, a far more substantial residue of African religious tradition survives, even when given a Christian veneer. Vodou has always dominated Haitian popular art, and many artists are vodou priests, or houngans, whose paintings document religious ceremonies or trance visions.

 

In the far reaches of the former Soviet Union and the European continent, Eastern Orthodox Christianity merged with local history and folk tales to create a rich tradition that endures despite being opposed by the Communists. Vassilij Romanenkov, working as a gardener at a Moscow hotel, uses art to connect with the spiritual roots he left behind in his native Smolensk. Some of the symbolism in his intricately crafted drawings is so sacred that the artist refuses to explain it. Much of Romanenkov’s work relates to ancient burial rites and the belief that on certain holy days the living can communicate with the dead. Archetypal images include circles or trees of life, and stairways linking earth to the heavens. The Serbian artist Ilija Bosilj-Basicevic, though not especially religious, was steeped in a similar stew of local secular and sacramental lore, which he drew upon to comprehend an extremely difficult life. Having been persecuted in succession by Austro-Hungarian occupiers, Croatian fascists, Nazis and Yugoslav Communists, Ilija saw the apocalypse not as a mythical battle to come, but as a living hell on earth. Salvation might be brought by the “wise men from the East” (a recurring, Christian-derived theme), but more than likely it could only be found in Ilija’s own personal paradise, a parallel universe he called Ilijada.

 

In the absence of a comprehensive, satisfying spiritual faith, artists often invent personal fantasies that amalgamate elements from religion, history and fairy tale. One of the best known of these fantasy worlds is the one created by the reclusive artist Henry Darger in his rented Chicago room. A devout Catholic who felt abandoned by God, Darger recorded his own apocalyptic war between good and evil, first in a lengthy manuscript, and then in several hundred scroll-like watercolors. In addition to Catholic iconography, his influences included Civil War history, popular children’s books, comic strips and commercial illustration. It is the contrast between Darger’s fire-and-brimstone battles and the saccharine innocence of his child heroines that gives the artist’s fantasy its profound emotional resonance. Such fantasy worlds are not, however, the sole province of self-taught artists. Ernesto Caivano won acclaim at the 2004 Whitney Biennial with After the Woods, a series of roughly 500 ink drawings narrating a romance between a young knight and a princess who turns into a spaceship. In Caivano’s related print cycle, Knight Interlude, the knight is gradually transformed into a tree. The two characters, reunited after 1,000 years, embody, respectively, technology and nature.

 

Artists who evolve complex personal mythologies, such as Caivano and Darger, often need narrative cycles to explicate stories not previously known to their viewers. Artists who integrate narratives that are common cultural property, on the other hand, usually create more concise, one-off images. Although fading from popular awareness, the Greek myths were once among the best known stories in Western Europe. Mythological subjects were not only a mainstay of the academic salons, but they inspired renegades such as Pablo Picasso. Picasso famously projected his own sexual appetites onto the legendary Minotaur, a bull-man who annually devoured seven youths and seven maidens. Greek mythology is also one of the many narrative traditions drawn upon by Leonard Baskin. For example, the story of the murderous sorceress Medea, who kills her husband’s younger lover, feels eternally fresh. Another tradition revived by Baskin is that of the Renaissance grotesque: fanciful creatures that are simultaneously gruesome and amusing. From these he derived a menagerie of “imaginary pets,” which in turn evolved into a children’s book.

 

The porous relationship between a child’s imagination and pure fantasy contributes to the profound impression made by fairy tales. While the Walt Disney Studios to an extent sanitized and softened the classic tales, their cartoons have nonetheless become enduring childhood icons, fondly remembered by adults. As Bettelheim understood, these stories are not just passing entertainments; they offer crucial developmental lessons. Pinocchio, often recalled merely as the story of a puppet who lies, is in fact an allegory about the humanizing effects of empathy and honesty. It is for this reason that the Austrian artist Matthias Griebler sees Pinocchio as his alter ego, a frequent subject of his intricate hand-colored etchings, along with other emblematic figures that range from St. Anthony to Puss ‘n Boots. Such archetypal figures enable Griebler to confront his own conflicts and desires, while at the same time referencing stories that are widely understood.

 

Whereas many artists access the spiritual realm through invented or pre-existing narratives, others seek simpler, more elemental images to express the emanations of their souls. Such an artist is Michel Nedjar. Scarred by his family’s losses in the Holocaust, Nedjar has sought a means to recuperate the past and communicate with the dead through art. Though entirely self-taught and included in Jean Dubuffet’s Musée de l’Art Brut, Nedjar has consciously searched through primitive visual material to locate archetypal images that evoke the spirit world. A similar self-styled spirit language was invented by peddler-turned-artist Scottie Wilson. Working in Canada and London in the years just before and after World War II, Wilson created a body of meticulous, semi-abstract drawings depicting a phantasmagorical realm inhabited by a mix of “good” creatures, such as birds and fish, and wicked, horned “greedies.” Like Darger’s, Scottie’s oeuvre has been interpreted as depicting an ongoing battle between good and evil, in which good ultimately triumphs. However, in Scottie’s work, the battle is conveyed entirely through symbols, without an overriding narrative.

 

Despite its modern-day secularization and commodification, art-making is still tantamount to a spiritual practice, a way of understanding and giving meaning to one’s existence. To do so, artists reach into the depths of their souls, tapping resources of which they are not always fully conscious. And to express what they find therein, artists develop a pictorial language that will, ideally, arouse kindred feelings in their audience. Now that the hegemony of abstraction and its allied critical discourse has diminished, the spiritual re-emerges—not as something new, but as something that has always been there. Today’s art world is awash in a multiplicity of expressive forms; no single dominant pictorial paradigm has replaced abstraction. And this is all to the good. For one must beware of dogmatic ideologies, whether they be aesthetic, political or religious. Art-making is a spiritual journey to an ambiguous and elusive destination; the magic is lost when the message becomes fixed and finite.

 

We would like to express our thanks to Fay Duftler and Elizabeth Marcus for their collaboration on this exhibition, and also to the colleagues and collectors whose generous cooperation made our presentation possible, including Hans Brockstedt, Jonathan Demme, Anthony Petullo, Robert Roth, Susan Yecies and several anonymous private lenders. Checklist entries include catalogue raisonné numbers, where applicable. Unless otherwise indicated, image dimensions are given for the prints and full dimensions for all other works.