Adolph Gottlieb Rugs – Originally considered one of the pioneers of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Adolph Gottlieb may be more accurately described as an Abstract Imagist—a phrase coined by H.H. Arnason. The latter being a label that expresses a kinship to, but also a departure from, the coterie and style of Abstract Expressionists of his time. Known mostly for his innovation with series’ such as Pictographs, Imaginary Landscapes, Bursts and Labyrinths, Adolph Gottlieb was an independent thinker. Drawing in friends from the sophisticated artistic and intellectual crowd around him, he still never hesitated to branch off in pursuit of his own artistry, leaving some of those friends bewildered and critical. The work he produced was not only abstract, but also truly unique.
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Showing his independent nature as a young man of 17, Gottlieb became bored with high school and left it in 1920 to study art. From that point on, he would not stray from his path of artistic endeavor. Having studied at the Art Students League of New York before dropping out of high school, he later traveled to Europe on his own steam to audit courses at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, visiting European art galleries and museums daily. Upon his return to New York, he resumed study at the Art Students League and went on to study at Cooper Union, the Educational Alliance and Parsons School of Design. The result of all his travel and study is a sophisticated and organically evolving style that progressed all the way up to his death in 1974.
Adolph not only studied and actively pursued a life of artistic evolution, but he could also be considered an art activist. He headed “The Irascibles” in 1950, a group of artists who protested the Metropolitan Museum of Art for what they saw as contempt for modern American painting of the decade. He also organized artist groups such as The Ten, The Federation of American Painters and Sculptors, and the New York Artist-Painters. He participated in the Forum 49 panel discussions where artists and writers held public discussions, drawing great crowds. Adolph Gottlieb’s leadership of the art movement of his time is undeniable.
He strove to develop a style based on the Surrealist psychology of his day, made popular by Sigmund Freud and others. Believing in automatism, a Surrealist method of expression, Gottlieb attempted to apply it to his art as seen mostly in his Pictographs with their simple strokes and lines that could almost be mistaken for symbols. Gottlieb’s later work, called Bursts and Imaginary Landscapes made heavy use of the imagery of circles, straight lines, and almost floral tangles of brushstrokes, reflecting the nature of his surroundings. His abstract style was at once simple and evocative and always appealed to the innermost emotions of the admirer.
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