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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


RUSSIA'S SELF-TAUGHT ARTISTS

A New Perspective on the "Outsider"

January 14, 2003 - March 29, 2003

ARTISTS

Darger, Henry

Leonov, Pavel

Romanenkov, Vasilij

Zaiatz, Nikifor

Zharkikh, Rosa

ESSAY

Since 1972, when Roger Cardinal chose the term “outsider art” as a rough English-language equivalent of Jean Dubuffet’s art brut, the concept has won a conflicted following in the United States. To be sure, the name proved a stellar marketing tool, as evidenced by the success of the annual Outsider Art Fair (which will celebrate its 11th anniversary at New York's Puck Building this year from January 23 to 26). But whereas the notion of the “outsider” plays to Americans’ ideal of themselves as individualistic mavericks, it also contradicts the equally cherished myth that, in our supposedly egalitarian society, there are no "outsiders." Critics have pointed out that some of the artists branded with the "outsider" label, especially African Americans, were operating very much within their own communities, albeit beyond the racially circumscribed purview of white society. To label an artist an "outsider" has, from this perspective, become an implicitly racist act, an unwarranted judgement by the dominant culture.

 

The lionization of the “outsider,” nevertheless, has a long and complex history in Western culture. The belief that societal norms and civilization in general have done more harm than good dates back to the Romantic era, which touted the “noble savage” as an exemplar of pure, untainted humanity. This belief acquired a specifically artistic focus in the late nineteenth century with the modernists’ rejection of the European academic system. Paul Gauguin found his “noble savages” in Tahiti, and many subsequent modernists, including Pablo Picasso, collected African tribal art, but the most enduring exponents of unadulterated “otherness” proved to be artists living and working within the confines of Western civilization. The idealization of untrained European and American artists threaded its way through the entire history of modernism, reminding the trained artists of their rebel mandate whenever academic rigidity threatened to reassert itself.

 

In a totalitarian state, however, the notion of the “outsider” has implications that make the rebellious antics of European and American modernists seem like bad-boy playacting. Whereas in the West, modernism gradually became the accepted mainstream art tradition, in Stalin’s Russia, modernism was forcibly replaced by Socialist Realism. Self-taught artists were not persecuted per se (unless they also engaged in more overtly subversive activities), but they were nonetheless ostracized. Yet at the same time that they were alienated from the Soviet system, Russia’s self-taught artists were completely innocent of Western culture: its television shows, films, fashions, rock music and the relentless bleating of the capitalist media remained largely unknown in the Soviet Union. The Russians were thus "outsiders" twice over.

 

Russia’s engagement with self-taught art both intertwines with and deviates from the history of the genre in the West. Like Western Europe, Russia had a longstanding folk tradition that began to fizzle in the nineteenth century due to encroaching industrialization. Russia was at this time also beset by a widening rift between its elite ruling classes, who had adopted European cultural mannerisms, and the peasantry, which still adhered to largely indigenous traditions. As political tensions mounted, the idealization and preservation of rural folkways became a way to cement national identity by isolating a kind of pure Russian essence to which all classes could on some level relate. By the turn of the twentieth century, avant-garde Russian artists had begun consciously incorporating folk styles and motifs in their work.

 

It was, in fact, a Russian, Vasilij Kandinsky, who became one of the most forceful advocates for adding folk art to the mix of non-academic influences favored by modernists in Western Europe. Like his European colleagues, Kandinsky also admired Asian and African imagery, believing that all these unconventional art forms provided access to a new means of expressing fundamental “internal truths.” His approach was distinctly different from that of fellow Russians such as Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov and Kasimir Malevich, who gradually turned away from the West. Rather than searching for internal truths, these artists felt that an entirely new formal language could be crafted based on the precedent of Russian folk art. In addition to incorporating elements from such traditional popular arts as lubki (broadsheets) in their own work, these artists organized exhibitions that included folk art and paintings by the self-taught Georgian master Niko Pirosmanashvili. The abstract and semi-abstract styles developed by Goncharova, Larionov and Malevich could therefore claim quintessentially Russian roots.

 

After the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the Soviet regime remained concerned with cementing national identity. Malevich and his colleagues were eager to help out, but it quickly became evident that abstraction held little mass appeal. Russian folk art was another matter: widely accessible, community-oriented and anti-elitist, it was an ideal vehicle for Soviet propaganda. Once brought under Soviet domination, however, folk creation lost its original character. Crafts traditions were preserved in state-operated workshops, which systematized the forms and means of production. Amateur art was promoted as a way of bringing creativity into the lives of ordinary citizens, but the permitted subjects were strictly controlled. All traces of individualism were prohibited, for this was deemed threatening to Soviet authority.

 

The attitude toward self-taught art began to change gradually in the 1960s, with the so-called “thaw” initiated by Nikita Khrushchev. For the first time, it became possible to criticize Stalin. Resistance to the Soviet regime, though still subject to harsh punishment, began to percolate slowly beneath the surface of public life. Artists and intellectuals allied with the resistance felt an instinctive kinship with self-taught artists, who were unwitting resisters. The inherent nature of great self-taught art—individual autonomy and imperviousness to external creative dictates—assumed a poignant new relevance. The political circumstances peculiar to the Soviet Union thus rekindled the turn-of-the-century alliance between self-taught artists and the avant-grade.

 

As the Soviet era drew to a close in the 1980s, the gap between public and private pronouncements widened, and the whole of Russian society seemed to acquire a split personality. Intellectuals became increasingly fascinated by the criteria distinguishing normalcy from insanity. Within this context, Russians for the first time developed a sustained interest in the art of the mentally ill as art (rather than as an outgrowth of psychiatric pathology). This interest found its initial expression in 1990, when the first public exhibition of work by mental patients was held at the Medical Museum in Moscow. From this evolved Moscow’s Museum of Outsider Art, which opened its doors to the public in 1996. Following the theoretical precepts of Jean Dubuffet, the Museum of Outsider Art complements the efforts of the scholar/collector Ksenia Bogemskaya, who has been studying Russian naïve art since the 1980s. However, in Russia, as elsewhere, the boundaries between art brut and naïve art are sometimes fluid, if not altogether meaningless.

 

It is no coincidence that all four artists in the present exhibition began working after the “thaw” and came to international attention only in the 1980s and ‘90s. Although their art and their biographies are consistent with the styles and habits we have come to associate with Western “outsiders,” these artists also incorporate distinctly Russian influences. The fact that none of the four would have been approved by the Communist regime does not mean that their Soviet upbringing did not affect them. Additionally, elements of older Russian folk traditions remain alive in the work of that nation’s self-taught artists. These elements may derive both from the artificial folk culture preserved by the Soviets, and from surviving authentic practices in outlying rural areas. Occasionally, one can detect non-Russian influences, which the artists picked up like flotsam on a beach.

 

Pavel Leonov, probably the most widely known artist in our exhibition, may in some regards be considered paradigmatic of the Russian “outsider.” His father, whom the artist has described as a “professional alcoholic,” was a government official in the provincial village of Volotovsky, south of Moscow. Leonov’s troubles with the law began with his father (who was not above turning the teenage boy over to the authorities) and continued when he fled to the Ukraine. Here he was prosecuted for fighting with an army officer. For this and similar minor infractions, Leonov spent the years from 1940 to 1955 in and out of labor camps. During this period and thereafter, he became an inveterate wanderer who pursued a variety of trades, including carpentry, road-building, farming, sign-painting and metalwork. In 1968, Leonov fell in love with a woman named Zina, and shortly thereafter they married and settled in the rural village of Mekhovitsy. Here they live in a primitive shack, beneath a rookery filled with raucous birds. Old age has not much softened Leonov’s fractious personality; he is beset by real and imagined grudges, undoubtedly exacerbated by his neighbors’ disdain for his artistic vocation.

 

Leonov has had a life-long interest in art. Prior to his first arrest, when he was living in the Ukraine, he attempted to teach himself drawing from a manual, but it was not until his final release from prison, in 1955, that he began to paint. Seeking the official certificate that would allow him to work as an artist, he enrolled in a correspondence course offered by the Extramural People's University of Art. His instructor there was Mikhail Roginsky, a noted “Pop” artist who, like many practitioners of unapproved styles, was forced to earn a living by teaching. Leonov makes a distinction between the style preached by the correspondence school—which he terms “naturalism”--and his own self-invented style, which he calls “constructionism” or “architecturalism.” Roginsky, for his part, knew to leave well enough alone and did not try in any way to influence Leonov’s direction. In 1970, the teacher arranged for his pupil's paintings to be shown at the school with other work by "amateurs." In 1988, Leonov was included in an exhibition of Russian self-taught artists in Paris and Laval, France (birthplace of the first “naïve,” Henri Rousseau). Exhibitions, both at home and abroad, increased considerably in the 1990s. Leonov has been shown several times at Charlotte Zander’s museum of naïve art in Bönnigheim, Germany, and in 1997 received first prize at the fifth Triennale of Naïve Art (INSITA) in Bratislava.

 

Leonov's “constructionism” can best be described as a grid system facilitating the combination of multiple vignettes, divided by vertical and horizontal crossbars that are analogous to architectural pillars and beams. Similar compositions, with vignettes separated by decorative borders, can be found on Russian folk objects such as chests, carpets and distaffs. Appearances to the contrary, Leonov’s vignettes do not form a single scene, but rather represent projections of parallel realities. He refers to these as “rooms” or “television sets.” Television is still a novelty to the artist, and he seems entranced by the idea that visions from a separate world can, in fact, be beamed into an actual room. The subjects that appear in Leonov's “rooms” and “televisions” include his beloved wife Zina, nudes, self-portraits and the ubiquitous birds, as well as glorified images of modern technology. Long parades of buses, airplanes, tanks and helicopters recall Soviet propaganda. Popular entertainments, such as carousels, circuses and theaters, as well as abundant water (in fact a scarce resource in Mekhovitsy) round out Leonov’s view of paradise. He knows these visions are not real, but he offers his paintings as a blueprint for a better society.

 

The paradox and ultimate downfall of the Soviet system lay in the fact that it promised a utopia it could not deliver. Socialist Realism was, in this sense, no more “realistic” than Leonov’s fantasies. Therein lay the danger of accepting the Soviet promise at face value, for the line between promoting an ideal society and critiquing the real one was fine indeed. This ideological contradiction lies at the heart not just of Leonov's work, but of an 84-page instructional booklet drawn by Nikifor Zaiatz in the early 1970s. Little is known of Zaiatz, who lived in remote Siberia. Over a period that may have involved many months or even years, he assembled his ideas on an array of subjects including farm machinery, fashion, architecture, industrial design, photography, art and behavior. Minimally educated, he resented the greater esteem and authority accorded those with more schooling. He believed in conserving valuable materials, opposed the use of fur, and felt women should dress more modestly. When he was done with his treatise, Zaiatz sent it to a Moscow publisher. The manuscript was of course unpublishable, and it ended up as a form of samizdat (forbidden literature), collected and preserved by the conceptual artist Vagrich Bakhchanyan.

 

Probably an outgrowth of Communist indoctrination, utopianism is an undercurrent in the work of many Russian self-taught artists. The contrast between the dreams put forth by Soviet propaganda and the harsh realities of Soviet life may have prompted some artists to seek refuge in an alternate spirit universe—despite the fact that the open practice of religion was strictly forbidden. This seems to have been the case with Rosa Zharkikh, a Moscow factory worker who began receiving visions at the age of 46, after suffering a near-death experience. Directed by an unseen external force, she started to draw. Several years later, Zharkikh retired from the factory and moved more completely into the world of her visions. Using thread and fabric, she tried to replicate the magical, flower-like costumes that appeared in her dreams, often working for several years on a single embroidery. She drew more quickly, eventually filling her tiny apartment with hundreds of colorful sheets documenting what she terms the “parallel world.” It is her goal to construct a bridge between this imaginary world and the real one.

 

Without adhering to any one spiritual discipline, Zharkikh combines references from Christianity and Eastern religion in her works. In the 1990s, as a result of improved communications between Russia and the outside world, she became intrigued by Tibetan philosophy, which she felt offered a model of spiritual transformation akin to what she, on her own, had been trying to achieve. Both her drawings and her embroideries use nested skeins of differing colors to represent graduated stages of consciousness and to enfold self-portraits and symbolic images. Lately, the artist has also been depicting “heroes” from the spirit realm, such as her deceased mother and sister. Zharkikh hopes to be reunited with these perfect spirits, and to this end she has adopted a precise regimen of personal improvement and purification. She eschews television, follows a strict diet and avoids contact with other people. Only grudgingly will she talk about her work, which she refers to as “children” rather than as art. Beyond the pictorial symbols, Zharkikh imbeds her drawings with messages in a secret hieroglyphic code that only she can understand, but which she refuses to translate. Public recognition would probably mean little to her, and in any case would be difficult to achieve on a large scale in Russia, given the ingrained suspicion of unconventional art that is part of the Socialist Realist legacy. Nevertheless, over the last ten years, Zharkikh has been supported by and exhibited regularly at Moscow's Museum of Outsider Art. She was also included in the fifth and sixth INSITA exhibitions in Bratislava in 1997 and 2000, as well as in the Biennale of Naïve Art in Jagodina in 2001.

 

Vasilij Romanenkov, the youngest artist in the present exhibition, hovers somewhere between the arcane mysticism of Zharkikh and a more accessible folk idiom. He was born in Bogdanovka, a remote village where vestiges of ancient folk traditions still survive. At the age of 15, he came to Moscow, where he was taken in by relatives and trained as a cabinet maker. After some years working on construction sites, he obtained his current job as a gardener for the Moscow parks department. (The artist's interest in trees and topiary is evident in his work.) Romanenkov began painting in 1975, at the age of 22. His earliest works, done in oil, usually depict large peasant gatherings in settings that suggest three-dimensional space. However, as he continued to work, his spaces grew flatter, his figures smaller and more stylized, his compositions more strictly geometric and symmetrical. Romanenkov also switched from paint to a combination of graphite, ballpoint pen and colored pencil. Typically, the artist pastes sheets of paper on a hard backboard, which allows him to achieve extremely crisp lines. His drawings are filled with an abundance of minute detail, the surfaces covered by a lace-like network of tightly intertwined lines.

 

As Romanenkov's work lost its folksy, narrative quality, his images have become more iconic and universal. Instead of painting a specific event, like a wedding feast, he now presents such rituals as generic markers in the passage from birth to death. Baptisms, childhood, old age and funerals reflect the life cycle that binds the generations. Romanenkov, who leads a solitary existence and believes that his hand is guided "by someone from the cosmos," seeks to depict the continuum linking the mundane sphere with the surrounding spirit world. His drawings often incorporate archaic motifs such as the tree of life, the sun and the "Earth Mother" (symbolizing fertility). The artist's stylized figures and propensity for creating triptychs and polyptychs also recall Russian icons. Some have seen a relationship between Romanenkov's intricate surface ornamentation and the geometric patterns found in Russian folk textiles, but he himself contends that these ornaments represent the internal thoughts and conversations of his characters. As with Zharkikh's hieroglyphics, these "conversations" are encoded in a language that only the artist can comprehend. Romanenkov's drawings were exhibited at INSITA in 1994 and 1997, at the Museum Charlotte Zander in 1999 and at the Museum der Stadshof in Zwolle, The Netherlands, in 2000.

 

From the outset, the promulgation of self-taught art has had a pronounced political dimension. European modernists in the early twentieth century turned to non-academic art in part as a protest against the social and artistic dictates of bourgeois society. When Dubuffet "invented" the idea of art brut in the 1940s, he was very conscious of the fact that Adolf Hitler had recently equated modernism with madness. Similarly, Russian intellectuals in the 1980s and '90s championed self-taught art as an expression of the creative freedom that was banned for so many years under Soviet rule. Over the course of the last century, the most vociferous advocates of self-taught art have often exaggerated its purity, its degree of remove from the surrounding culture. Some Americans, on the other hand, now complain that the notion of the "outsider" is antithetical to democratic egalitarianism.

 

The truth is that all societies endorse normative values of one kind or another. Humans, collectively as well as individually, are constantly making choices, and the act of choosing one thing invariably entails the neglect of something else. The hallmark of a truly free and democratic society is not an absence of value judgements, but the flexibility to assimilate disparate viewpoints and thereby to change. The appeal of "outsider art," by whatever name, is that it gives us access to aspects of our beings that we have previously been wont to repress. That is why homegrown self-taught art has had a more enduring relationship to the modernist aesthetic than the non-Western art forms once promoted by Picasso and his colleagues. The appeal of "outsiders" lies less in their "otherness" than in the things they can teach us about ourselves. Russia's "outsiders" in this sense have profound lessons to offer to those of us living in the West. For half a century or more, the Soviet Union was the biggest "other": the enemy, the antipode of everything we ostensibly stood for, the brunt of our sometimes misguided foreign policy. How amazing that we can at last explore our common humanity!

 

The present exhibition owes its genesis to the pioneering legwork of a number of colleagues. Three years ago, at the suggestion of the Dutch dealer Nico van der Endt, the Galerie St. Etienne first included Vasilij Romanenkov in a survey of European self-taught artists. This show caught the attention of Ksenia Bogemskaya, who in the meantime has become a loyal supporter and friend. Additionally, as a result of that exhibition, we met the Russian emigré photography dealer Nailya Alexander, who introduced us to the work of Pavel Leonov. (A show of Leonov's work, curated by Ms. Alexander, will take place at Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum from February 1 through April 1.) Through Ms. Alexander, we also established contact with the Museum of Outsider Art in Moscow. The museum's director, Vladimir Abakumov, and his able assistants, Anya Yarkina and Andrea Rutherford, were instrumental in helping us obtain Rosa Zharkikh's work for the present exhibition. In addition to the foregoing dealers and scholars, we would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Irene Bakhchanyan, who showed us the samizdat collection of her husband Vagrich and provided a partial translation of Nikifor Zaiatz's manuscript. The literature on Russian self-taught art remains scant, and the portion in English is even more limited. Within this context, however, the writings of Ksenia Bogemskaya and Anya Yarkina are exemplary, and both these experts have been extraordinarily generous with their advice and assistance. For a more general grounding in the subject, Alison Hilton's 1995 book Russian Folk Art is indispensable.