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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


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


HENRY DARGER

Art and Myth

January 15, 2004 - March 20, 2004

ARTISTS

Darger, Henry

ESSAY

Henry Darger (1892-1973) is in many respects the prototypical “outsider” artist. A recluse who shuttled between meager lodgings in a Chicago rooming house and menial jobs at local hospitals, he secretly harbored an extraordinarily vast and rich fantasy life. Both his immense novel, In the Realms of the Unreal (fifteen principal volumes, comprising 15,145 pages, and a sequel of 8,500 pages), and his artwork (estimated to consist of several hundred watercolor and pencil drawings of various sizes) revolve around a fictional war between the supremely good, Catholic nation of Abbiennia and its evil enemy, atheistic Glandelinia. The main characters are children: the seven angelic Vivian sisters; their boy- and girl-scout allies and foes; and masses of enslaved children, whose rebellion from their Glandelinian oppressors has triggered the war. Adding an extra touch of quirkiness to the drawings, the children are frequently “nuded” (Darger’s term) and endowed with little penises, regardless of gender. Adult men command battalions on both sides of the conflict, but grown women are almost never seen.

 

Jean Dubuffet defined Art Brut (“outsider” art’s European antecedent) as art created beyond the purview of received culture. Although Dubuffet tried to avoid directly correlating Art Brut with madness, it was from the start evident that, in media-saturated America or Europe, distance from received culture was largely determined by an artist’s mental state. As a result, “outsider” art as a whole, and Henry Darger in particular, have suffered from a tendency to dwell excessively on biographical and psychological details. The ostensible “artlessness” of Art Brut or “outsider” art creates further complications: is the work merely a psychiatric artifact, of essentially clinical interest, or is it in fact art? To the extent that the work is an artifact—formless and incoherent—it may be “pure” but it will also be unintelligible to all but its creator. Even the craziest artists are not entirely immune from mainstream influences, however, and the greatest “outsiders” (including Darger) are valued precisely because they achieved a mastery over form and content that equals or even exceeds that of most trained artists. We appreciate these psychologically impaired creators less because they give us access to their private worlds, than because of what they tell us about ourselves.

 

It could be argued that Darger’s written oeuvre is in fact more artifact than art. A plotless, unstructured narration, In the Realms of the Unreal meanders through meticulously documented battles, horrific natural disasters and plucky adventures without ever getting anywhere until the final 16 pages, when the war is rapidly brought to an end. (The Abbiennians win, though this outcome had previously often seemed in doubt.) The text itself seems to be pieced together from a miscellany of disparate sources: everything from newspaper articles to Pilgrim’s Progress. Darger bends these texts to his own idiosyncratic purposes, changing words and syntax slightly and inserting his characters’ invented names as needed. The length of the text overall, and in particular of its more gruesome passages, makes it virtually unreadable. No one, not even the preeminent Darger scholar John MacGregor, has succeeded in reading all 15,145 pages. In addition to the Realms and its even more grisly sequel Further Adventures in Chicago: Crazy House, Darger toward the end of his life kept three journals in which he compulsively recorded his sparse daily activities, the weather and his artistic progress. In 1968, five years after retiring from his last hospital job, he also began a curious autobiography. Though the first 206 pages are relatively factual (and actually comprise most of what we know about Darger’s life), the bulk of the manuscript may well be Darger’s most frightening creation: 5,085 endlessly repetitive pages documenting, in graphic detail, the gory predations of a supernaturally powerful twister incongruously named “Sweetie Pie.”

 

Various conflicting dates have been proposed, both by Darger and others, for the writing of the Realms. The story was probably formulated in the author’s head years before he began writing, and it continued to evolve in his drawings long after the writing had stopped. The first, presumably handwritten drafts, possibly begun as early as 1910, may have been lost or stolen. The typed manuscript that we know was begun in 1916 and probably completed around 1932, when the first seven volumes were bound. (A further eight volumes were never bound, and it is not clear if they were written later.) Though Darger created a number of ancillary images (mostly of single figures) while he was still writing the Realms, it is evident that the bulk of his mature pictorial oeuvre was completed between 1932 and 1965. During this period, he also wrote Crazy House and kept the weather and art journals, but he devoted most of his creative energies to image making. By the time Darger began his final written work--the daily diary and the autobiography--he had probably largely or completely stopped making art.

 

Despite the continuity of content that exists between Darger’s writings and his watercolors, it is misleading to refer to the latter as illustrations of the former. Not only were the two bodies of work done at different times, but there is little direct correlation between them. Not surprisingly, Darger’s earliest artwork is most closely related to the manuscript, though it is unlikely that he made a regular practice of referring to the text while drawing. (Sometimes, conversely, he seems to have done the pictures first, and then written about them.) Later, as the narrative evolved in his head, he crafted scenes that carry the story in previously uncharted directions.

 

One of the principal differences between Darger’s writings and his artwork is the treatment of violent subject matter. The artist’s reputation for gore is based principally on his writings and is belied by the cheery colors and pastoral subject matter found in many of the watercolors. Even the battle pictures are on the whole quite tame. Only a relative handful depict the disembowelings and strangulations for which the artist is, regrettably, best known. Curiously, whereas in the novel the soldiers are mainly adults, in the watercolors children are increasingly active as combatants. And though the Glandelinians, in the text, frequently strip their child victims as a prelude to further tortures, in the images nudity is both more pervasive and more matter-of-fact. Darger seems comparatively at ease with sexuality, which earlier would have triggered a frenzy of violence. Perhaps as the artist entered middle age, the sexual and aggressive drives of adolescence and early adulthood diminished. Or maybe picture-making itself had a sedative effect, allowing Darger to more completely visualize and thereby inhabit a soothing alternative reality.

 

In his artwork, Darger succeeded in bringing order to the chaos of his mind, something he could not achieve through writing alone. Unlike his writings, Darger’s watercolors have compositional structure and a stylistic development that evidence ever-growing skill. Initially, his approaches to image making and writing were similar. Just as he extracted texts from preexisting sources, he collected evocative photographs and printed illustrations, which he modified with paint or pencil, much as he might alter a text by interpolating his own words. Sometime in the mid to late ‘teens, Darger began portraying his cast of characters, starting with the Vivian girls and their friends, and progressing to the generals. By the 1920s, he was able to draw simple images—such as regimental flags and the winged monsters he called Blengins—without directly collaging source material into his work. However, his battle scenes (usually relying heavily on collaged elements) were chaotic, a jumble of vignettes with no underlying thematic or pictorial organization.

 

By the early 1930s, Darger had invented a new way of dealing with pictorial source material (mainly coloring books, comics and children’s fashion illustrations). Although he would retain a lifelong aversion to freehand drawing, he found he could achieve greater inventive freedom by tracing, rather than cutting and pasting, his printed prototypes. Watercolors done in the 1930s usually depict single scenes on 19˝ x 24˝ sheets. Accordingly, the overall scale of the compositions is small, especially as compared to Darger’s later work. There is little nudity during this period, and much emphasis on the elaborate dresses worn by the Vivian girls. The styling of these outfits has a distinctly prim, prewar look, with narrow silhouettes and knee-length skirts, especially for the older girls. Abbiennian uniforms are generally yellow and purple, the Easter colors. Although the earliest of these sheets were probably intended as stand-alone works, Darger gradually began to glue them together. The resulting long, scroll-like panels do not form sequential narratives in the comic-strip sense, but may instead represent aspects of a single episode, glimpsed from different points in time or space. Evidently, Darger was aiming to produce broad, comprehensive views. To do so, he gradually taught himself to meld two 19˝ x 24˝ sheets into a single image. At first he painted the two halves separately and only glued them together after they had been completed. One can follow his progress by marking the accuracy with which the two halves match up at the seam. A breakthrough of sorts was achieved when he learned to compose his watercolors after gluing the sheets.

 

By the mid 1940s, Darger was creating the long, pictorially cohesive narratives (up to 70˝ wide) for which he is famous. Starting around 1944, he began having his printed sources enlarged photographically at a neighborhood drugstore. These enlargements were expensive for someone with Darger’s limited income, so it probably took him several years to achieve a critical mass. As the size of his image bank grew, so did the size of his figures and of the works themselves. (Later works often exceed 100˝ in length.) Although Darger often reused favorite images, he evidenced increasing versatility in his manipulation of these sources: combining body parts from disparate prototypes, and “nuding” children who were clothed in the original illustrations. Nudity becomes more common during the 1940s, while the prim purple and yellow costumes are supplanted by the looser, more casual dress styles of the postwar period.

 

Virtually all of the watercolors from the 1940s onward are double-sided. It appears that at first Darger pasted together some of the small, one-sided works done in the 1930s simply to get larger sheets. In these cases, the sequence of early images may be fairly random, and there is usually as much as a decade’s time gap between the works on the recto and the verso. A number of the subsequent pairings also lack any contextual or even temporal connection, but others were clearly intended to function as mates. In the latter works, Darger would often present two views of the same scene (for example, one looking north and the other south) so that the two sides, if imagined in tandem, form a 360-degree panorama.

 

It has thus far been impossible to reconstruct the exact sequence in which Darger created his watercolors. However, it is unlikely that they ever formed a logical narrative progression, as is the norm with book illustrations. More plausibly, Darger shifted focus from one theme to the next, as inspiration or obsession moved him. Nevertheless, while there may be no chronological arc to the story told in Darger’s images, it does appear that his latest works (judging by size and pictorial complexity) depict the end of the Glandico-Abbiennnian war and its euphoric aftermath. In this phase, the atrocities that formerly served as a primary focus for Darger are isolated and encapsulated in Glandelinian statues and propaganda pictures, which have now been seized by the victorious Abbiennian army. Darger’s attempt to distance himself from his past iconography may represent a psychological split: a failure to come to terms with his own evil impulses. Darger’s authorial presence, too, is more lightly felt in these late works. The once routine captions are now sometimes augmented by dialogue balloons (shifting narrative responsibility onto the children) or dispensed with entirely. The almost complete effacement of “bad” Henry Darger (an important character in the written version of the story) makes for an idyllic world, wherein children and Blengins cavort in a flower-filled paradise.

 

Darger’s inability to accept the coexistence of good and evil in human nature is both the underlying cause of his lifelong psychological anguish and a central leitmotif in his work. Whereas children’s fantasy literature (from Darger’s beloved Wizard of Oz to today’s Harry Potter series) often revolves around conflicts between good and evil, the “good” characters, such as the Wizard and Harry, are nonetheless flawed. The Vivian girls, however, are saintly creatures whose unadulterated goodness challenges credulity. These paragons of virtue were undoubtedly a legacy of Darger’s Catholic upbringing, which he continued to accept with the naive literalism of a child. Nonetheless, he was baffled by the religion’s evident inconsistencies. How is it that one could be a “bad” boy and yet have all one’s sins cleansed through the simple acts of confession and penance? Conversely, and more to the point, how could one do everything in one’s power to lead a pious life (as Darger did, going to Mass up to five times a day) and still seemingly be abandoned by God?

 

The mystery of God’s silence in the face of unimaginable acts of human cruelty is, of course, a problem of universal significance. Furthermore, attempts to paper over the ugly side of life with banal platitudes and saccharine or heroic imagery were rampant in twentieth-century America. This was a time when the failings of public figures (from Roosevelt’s paralysis to Kennedy’s philandering) were discreetly ignored. The period during which Darger created his watercolors spans the age of Shirley Temple to that of Leave it to Beaver: an era when children, even naughty ones, were always ineffably cute, and the nuclear family was sacrosanct. The images of childhood innocence that were ubiquitous in American pop culture—and that Darger copied into his watercolors—belied the sometimes horrific realities of child neglect and abuse that the artist had experienced at first hand during a boyhood spent largely in custodial institutions. After all, while Darger was creating his pictures of child torture, real children were being gassed in Nazi Germany. This was an era when difference (including Darger’s apparent “craziness”) was brutally stigmatized; when even in the U.S., discrimination on racial or religious grounds was not only condoned, but legally enforced. And yet America was still ostensibly a land of equal opportunity for all, home of the free and the brave.

 

By juxtaposing pictures of the adorable Vivian girls with scenes of combat and occasional torture, Darger unwittingly exposed not only his own internal psychological split, but the hypocrisy of contemporary American culture. The inability to openly acknowledge and deal with evil impulses was not his alone, but also that of society at large. And just as this split was unbearably painful for Darger, it ultimately proved untenable for the American nation. The tumult of the 1960s ushered in a protracted period of national self-examination and efforts to right prior wrongs. We would like to believe that we are as a result more tolerant, and certainly the most overt forms of discrimination have now been outlawed. In contrast to the “Pollyanna” views common 50 years ago, Americans today seem almost obsessed with the dark side: presidential peccadilloes become cause for impeachment, movies contain episodes of graphic violence that rival any in Darger’s work, and parents worry constantly about child molestation. Routing out evil is surely preferable to ignoring it, yet one may wonder whether in some cases these efforts have not gone too far, fostering attitudes that are either unduly anxious or excessively judgmental.

 

There is little doubt that changes in American consciousness over the past several decades have created an atmosphere especially receptive to Darger’s work. Popular culture has all but supplanted high culture as our primary aesthetic reference point, and pop iconography is now accepted as a significant component of serious art. Whereas Darger would at one time have been derided for copying, Pop Art taught us that one of the best ways to comment upon popular culture is to quote from it. However, whereas artists such as Andy Warhol idealized pop icons like Marilyn Monroe, Darger felt betrayed by popular culture, and his work explores its deceptions.

 

Our fascination with Darger is in part an extension of the contemporary obsession with the dark side of human nature. Audiences always complete works of art by supplying their own interpretations, and this is especially so in the case of “outsiders,” who are generally incapable of voicing their intentions. However, all true art embodies levels of meaning that the artist never consciously intended. It is these multiple levels of meaning that permit great art to awaken responses across generations and that allow for its longevity. And it is the related element of ambiguity that gives Darger’s art its enduring resonance—despite or because of its insoluble mysteries.

 

We would like to thank Kiyoko Lerner and Colleen Goldsborough for their invaluable help in organizing the present exhibition, and the American Folk Art Museum for so generously lending a selection of Darger’s preliminary source material. We are particularly grateful to Brooke Anderson, Director and Curator of AFAM’s Contemporary Center, for her knowledgeable guidance in this regard, and to Ann-Marie Reilly for expediting the loan process. Much of the information in the checklist essay is based on Michael Bonesteel’s book, Henry Darger: Art and Selected Writings, and, especially, on John MacGregor’s Henry Darger: In the Realms of the Unreal. Copies of these books may be ordered for $ 85.00 each, plus $ 15.00 each (or $ 20.00 for both books) for shipping and handling. New York residents, please add sales tax. Checklist entries include references to these books, where applicable, as well as the Nathan Lerner Living Trust’s inventory numbers.

 

Note: For the first time, approximate dates have been assigned to the works in the present exhibition. While we hope that this will facilitate a deeper understanding of Darger’s overall development, we also recognize that the process of assigning dates entails a risk of error. It is likely that future research will make it possible to date Darger’s work with a greater degree of accuracy. The dates suggested below should not be taken as the final word, but rather as the first step in an ongoing process.