Past Exhibitions

All Good Art is Political

Käthe Kollwitz and Sue Coe

October 26, 2017 - March 10, 2018

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

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

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


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


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 America 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


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


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


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


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


Revisiting the Tradition

January 11, 2011 - April 2, 2011


Branchard, Emile

Doriani, William

Field, Erastus Salisbury

Hicks, Edward

Hirshfield, Morris

Kane, John

Lebduska, Lawrence

Litwak, Israel

Moses, Anna Mary Robertson ("Grandma")

Phillips, Ammi

Pickett, Joseph

Prior-Hamblen School

Stock, Joseph Whiting


In 1982, the Galerie St. Etienne mounted an exhibition titled "The Folk Art Tradition: Naive Painting in Europe and the United States." Accompanied by a book-length catalogue, the show attempted to present a cohesive overview of a genre that had long resisted precise definition. In the ensuing quarter-century, the field variously known as "folk art," "naive art," "primitive art," "art brut," "outsider art" and "self-taught art" has become even messier and more conflicted. At the same time, however, scholarship has improved exponentially. Ironically, the fact that we today know so much more than we once did about the creators who constitute this field only makes it harder to find a common rubric under which to group them.


The origins of the field can be traced back to mid-nineteenth-century Europe. There, as later in the United States, interest in what the Germans dubbed Volkskunst initially had an ethnographic orientation. Urbanization and the ongoing erosion of handicraft by industrialization inspired Europeans to record and preserve for posterity the creations of the indigenous peasant class. From the outset, this mission had a political dimension: symbolically rooted in the native soil, folk art was readily appropriated to affirm national identity. For some observers, folk artists also evoked the Romantic ideal of the noble savage. These creators, it was believed, worked in atavistic idioms uncorrupted by modern society. Nationalistic and Romantic interpretations would reverberate through folk-art studies, both in the U.S. and abroad, for years to come.


Interest in American folk art was an extension of the so-called colonial revival, which was itself an outgrowth of the patriotism sparked by the nation's centennial in 1876. The arts-and-crafts movement, introduced to the U.S. toward the end of the nineteenth century, drew further attention to well-designed, well-made folk objects. As in Europe, advancing industrialization was also a factor, spurring nostalgia for the past and a desire to recapture "America's golden age." Collections proliferated, along with shops, auctions and magazine articles, but the focus was on historical documentation and interior decoration. "Period rooms," popular in museums, were emulated at home.


The idea of folk art as art, like awareness of the genre per se, originated in Europe. Picking up on the concept of the noble savage, European modernists decided in the early twentieth-century that untrained artists were inherently superior to members of the academic art establishment. The modernists made no real distinction between peasant craftsmen, children, self-taught contemporary painters like Henri Rousseau or creators from non-western cultures. All were commonly referred to as "primitives," because it was believed they could access the primordial roots of visual expression. And this is what the modernists hoped to achieve in their own work. Folk art legitimized modern art, and modern art in turn legitimized folk art.


By 1910, some of America’s more advanced artists had begun collecting domestic folk art, but the trend only took off in the 1920s and acquired ideological cohesion in the 1930s. Among the key shapers of this trajectory were Hamilton Easter Field (whose art school in Ogunquit Maine became a magnet for supporters of modernism), the artist Elie Nadelman, the dealer Edith Gregor Halpert and the curator Holger Cahill. In 1931, with Cahill’s assistance, Halpert's Downtown Gallery opened an annex specializing in American folk art. Major collectors such as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller were at this point already onboard. Cahill further codified the field in his exhibitions "American Primitives: An Exhibit of the Paintings of Nineteenth-Century Folk Artists" (Newark Museum, 1930), "American Folk Sculpture: The Work of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Craftsmen" (Newark Museum, 1931) and "American Folk Art: The Art of the Common Man in America 1750-1900" (Museum of Modern Art, 1932). In 1938, MoMA expanded the genre's reach into the contemporary arena with "Masters of Popular Painting."


Folk art's transition from the realm of ethnography to fine art was not uncomplicated, as evidenced by the shifting nomenclature in the 1930s' exhibition titles. High-art terms like "painting" and "sculpture" glossed over those aspects of folk art that were based in utilitarian craft and communal traditions. Left open was the question whether use of the adjective "folk" should be confined to pre-industrial creations. Twentieth-century manifestations of similar impulses were more difficult to classify and name. Nonetheless, by whatever name, self-taught art proved remarkably in sync with Depression-era tastes. The genre was seen as being quintessentially American, fulfilling the need for a distinctive native art and providing a foundation for American modernism that appeared independent of any European prototype. At a time of massive socio-economic upheaval, folk artists exemplified unifying national values such as freedom, individualism and democratic egalitarianism. As Cahill stressed, this was the "art of the common man." Anointed as well with the aura of the noble savage, the work was "simple, unaffected and childlike." It was, Alice Winchester would write some years later, "characterized by the qualities belonging to the original state of man."


The stereotypes put forth by Cahill and carried through the twentieth century by successors like Winchester and Jean Lipman have only recently begun to be deconstructed and challenged. The "art of the common man," we now realize, was largely the art of white men of European descent living in the Northeastern United States. The "noble savage" paradigm proved equally insidious, requiring that each artist be viewed as a tabula rasa. Early studies ignored the elaborate interplay between idiosyncratic innovation, community-based standards and outside influences that characterizes most folk painting. The context in which the work originated was of scant interest.


During America’s colonial period, art was essentially a European import, albeit one for which the early settlers had little time. The Revolution brought greater cultural independence, but Europe continued to be seen as the arbiter of upper-class standards, the place where ambitious American painters went to study. At the same time, the United States was developing a broad-based middle class with the means and desire to celebrate its success. An upsurge in consumerism increased the demand for portraits. Portraits affirmed the sitters’ social standing and, in an era of high mortality rates, supplemented the genealogical records that were commonly appended to family Bibles. As interior decoration, portraits were more acceptable to Puritan households than “fancy” subjects like landscapes.


The first half of the nineteenth century was the heyday of the “limner”: itinerant artists who traveled the countryside painting portraits. The absence of guilds in the U.S. made it easy for a farmer to supplement his income by taking up a trade, and limning was an extension of crafts such as house-painting, gilding and sign-painting. Many limners combined portraiture with other sorts of decorative work; only the most successful, like Ammi Phillips, could live off portrait commissions alone. The best documented limners worked overlapping territories in Pennsylvania, New York and New England, and it is likely their paths crossed. Some had direct or indirect contact with academically trained artists; Erastus Salisbury Field studied with Samuel F. B. Morse, and Joseph Whiting Stock took lessons from a student of Chester Harding. Engravings and mezzotints, often imported from England, transmitted additional information about academic poses and techniques.


From these sundry sources, limners cobbled together an ad-hoc approach that combined elements of polished realism with comparatively crude abstraction. Understandably, they paid the most attention to faces and used stylized garments to cloak their ignorance of anatomical rendering. Artists often enlivened compositions with decorative details such as lace and patterned fabrics to underscore the sitters’ prosperity. Economic considerations helped determine a portrait’s size, complexity and degree of finish. William Matthew Prior, who ran a workshop in collaboration with his relatives Sturtevant J. Hamblin and George Hartwell, advertised that, “Persons wishing for a flat picture can have a likeness without shade or shadow at one quarter price.” The Prior-Hamblin group also charged less for “side views and profiles of children.” Miniatures, watercolors and silhouettes, priced according to the amount of detail, served the lowest end of the market. Nonetheless, even the most elaborate and costly limner portraits never achieved the level of three-dimensional accuracy found in their academic counterparts.


Portrait-painting was a relatively low-status occupation, but America’s limners were often more financially successful than their better-educated colleagues. John Vanderlyn bemoaned the fact that people evidently preferred the portraits of Ammi Phillips to his own more refined landscapes and history paintings. “Were I to begin in life again,” Vanderlyn advised his young nephew, “I would not hesitate to follow this plan, . . . to paint portraits cheap & slight, for the mass of folks can’t judge the merits of a well-finished picture.” While Erastus Salisbury Field prospered, poverty forced his one-time teacher Samuel Morse to abandon art for science. Best remembered for inventing the telegraph, Morse in 1839 dealt a death-blow to the limner profession by introducing the daguerreotype to the U.S..


Daguerreotypes were simply cheaper, faster to produce and more accurate than any painted portrait. Some limners, like Field, tried to master the new technology or to work from photographic sources, but this yielded stilted, less pleasing paintings. In the 1840s, Field changed his professional title from “portrait painter” to “artist,” and began to depict more “artistic” historical and Biblical subjects. Similarly, William Mathew Prior switched to landscapes in the 1850s. However, technology had brought unbeatable competition into the market for “fancy” pictures as well. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, commercial lithographers like Currier and Ives turned out inexpensive prints by the thousands. There were images to suit every taste: landscapes, portraits of celebrities and historical figures, records of newsworthy events, religious themes, decorative subjects and cartoons. It was the end of the line for the professional folk painter, and the beginning of the age of the amateur.


Industrialization gave people more leisure time for hobbies, and popular prints proved inspirational to amateur painters. Whereas portraits had predominated among their professional predecessors, self-taught artists active around the turn of the twentieth century favored landscapes. Signed or unsigned, many of these paintings appear as one-off attempts, impossible to connect to a larger body of work. The oeuvre of Joseph Pickett, now considered among the most important self-taught artists of this period, would probably have been lost had Holger Cahill not salvaged a few paintings for his 1930 exhibition. The art world’s quest for contemporary self-taught painters, which began when the Pittsburgh laborer John Kane was admitted to the Carnegie International Exhibition in 1927, rescued numerous talented amateurs from otherwise certain oblivion.


Save for an initial dearth of professional opportunities, the best amateurs were in many fundamental respects similar to the nineteenth-century limners. They pursued their craft with wholehearted intensity, acquiring a knowledge of artistic process through trial-and-error and by studying available source materials. Kane haunted the Carnegie Museum and local libraries, assiduously copying pictures from art books. Morris Hirshfield, a retired garment manufacturer, produced full-scale templates, similar to dress patterns, for each of his paintings. Anna Mary Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses, like many of the anonymous amateurs who preceded her, loved the landscapes of Currier and Ives, but she soon replaced their typically narrow compositional format with a broader, quilt-like perspective that better suited her own experience of nature. Similarly, Kane combined views sketched from several locations to create scenes of Pittsburgh depicting what he knew in his mind’s eye to be there, rather than what could be seen from any one vantage point.


Economic circumstances had prevented this modern cohort of self-taught painters from pursuing artistic training, but all of them harbored a need to share their work with the public. Otherwise they would not have been “discovered”: Kane by submitting his work repeatedly to the Carnegie International’s jury; Moses through a “women’s exchange” at a local drugstore; William Doriani at the Washington Square Art Mart; Patsy Santo at the Vermont state fair. Nevertheless, none of these artists was equipped to compete in the high reaches of the art world, whose agenda remained inscrutable and, as it turned out, not entirely friendly.


Cahill and others who championed folk painting as America’s ur-artform failed to anticipate the anger this would arouse in the nation’s trained artists. Much like John Vanderlyn in the nineteenth-century, academic painters resented the fact that such crude upstarts could be more successful than they. Some attempted to discredit Kane by saying he painted over photographs. After MoMA gave Hirshfield a one-man exhibition in 1943, the museum’s director, Alfred Barr, was excoriated in the press and, as a result, removed from his post. When the U.S. Information Service sent a Moses show to Europe in 1950, The New York Times was not pleased. “[The Europeans] praise our naiveté and integrity,” a reviewer wrote, “but they begrudge us a full, sophisticated art expression. Grandma Moses represents both what they expect of us and what they are willing to grant us.” As a rising superpower in the postwar years, America abandoned the effort to seek an artistic identity in its folk traditions and instead embraced the work of the Abstract Expressionists.


And so it ended. Grandma Moses, one of the most popular American artists of the 1940s and ‘50s, went on to influence generations of children’s book illustrators and self-styled “naives,” but self-taught painters disappeared from the upper echelons of the art world. Folk art was relegated to the past, and to separatist institutions like New York’s Museum of Early American Folk Arts (today the American Folk Art Museum). Nonetheless, beyond the restrictive confines of the art world, self-taught artists were still making art in much the same ways they always had. Even as the American elite turned its back on self-taught art, the European artist Jean Dubuffet was laying the groundwork for the genre’s revival.


Dubuffet’s concept of “art brut” (raw art) was essentially a revival of the old “noble savage” ideal, but taken to a greater extreme than previously. Whereas earlier definitions of "folk" and "primitive" art had hinged on lack of training, Dubuffet required that "his" artists operate at the furthest remove from “received culture.” Commonly translated as "outsider art," art brut could not (despite the best efforts of its most ardent champions) escape the taint of implied mental or social impairment. Awkward attempts to classify artists according to biography and to parse subjective issues like authenticity were further complicated by the inherent racism of the term "outsider," which assumed a white, "insider" perspective on cultural boundaries.


As Dubuffet admitted, there is no such thing as "pure" art brut; all art is to a greater or lesser degree affected by received culture. And while folklorists, conversely, emphasize preexisting community traditions over idiosyncratic invention, the truth is that even folk crafts involve a mix of the two. Nineteenth-century limners, early twentieth-century self-taught painters and late twentieth-century outsiders navigated along a continuum, somewhere between the "raw" and the "cooked"; the wholly a-cultural and the fully cultured. What set these artists apart from the mainstream had nothing to do with some mythical ideal of purity, but was, quite simply, a matter of social class.


Americans want to believe we live in a classless society, ignoring the differences in education, wealth, race, ethnicity and gender that separate the upper echelons of the art world from ordinary citizens. Championing the work of self-taught artists has sometimes been a way to deny those differences. Collectors like the Rockefellers could lay claim to a grass-roots tradition that both mollified and justified the enormity of their wealth. Dubuffet appropriated unschooled stylistic tropes to lend greater "authenticity" to his own work. By anointing certain self-taught artists with their approval, the elite turned dross into gold. But the alchemical powers vested in the elite, and their judgments of the unschooled were often tinged with condescension. Acceptance of lower-echelon creators by the art-world mainstream did not challenge class boundaries; on the contrary, it affirmed them.


Understanding the field of self-taught art as an artifact of social class is the first step toward disentangling it from its distorted history. The second step requires understanding that this is not a genre, nor even a field, in any conventional sense, but rather a congeries of disparate creations. While there may be connections--communities of shared influence--among some of the artists, they do not hang together as a whole. Therefore, each body of work must be studied in terms of its specific context and the particular intentions of its creator. Judgments of authenticity must be replaced by judgments of quality. Self-taught artists deserve to be assessed by the same standards as trained artists: by weighing their assimilation of available visual resources and their success in developing formal vocabularies that effectively express an original vision.

We would like to express our wholehearted appreciation to the Bennington Museum, to its Director, Stephen Perkins, and its Curator, Jamie Franklin, without whose generous support this exhibition would not have been possible. We also extend warmest thanks to the private lenders and colleagues who assisted us with this show. Checklist entries are accompanied by their catalogue raisonné numbers where applicable; height precedes width.