In December I’m sharing just a little snippet about 20 different artists, these are artists 6-10. I hope to find some that I'll want to study more in depth next year. You can help by commenting on the post and letting me know if one of these is someone you’d like to know even more about.
Ellsworth Kelly was born on May 31, 1923, in Newburgh, New York. Ellsworth was a lonely, shy boy with a stutter. His grandmother introduced him to bird watching and he pored over the illustrations of Audubon.
He joined the military and served in WWII. He then used the G.I. Bill to study art in Boston and Paris, where he met many artists who became friends and mentors.
Kelly returned to America and lived in Manhattan where he shared a studio space with the painter Agnes Martin. But he did not fit into the NY art scene and found the art world there “very tough”. His work was “too French” he was told.
He left the city for upstate NY, rural Spencertown. There he settled with his husband Jack Shear, a photographer.
Kelly was a painter, sculptor, and printmaker best known for his minimalism, hard-edges, and color fields.
"The negative is just as important as the positive." -Ellsworth Kelly
Alma Thomas was born on September 22, 1891, in Columbus, Georgia. In 1907 her family moved to Washington, D.C., relocating due to racial violence in Georgia and the public school system of Washington.
Alma attended Howard University and was the first graduate from the university's Fine Arts program. She taught art at Shaw Junior High School from 1924-1960.
After her retirement, Howard University offered her a retrospective of her paintings in recognition of her achievements. She said “I decided to try to paint something different from anything I’d ever done. Different from anything I’ d ever seen. I thought to myself, ‘That must be accomplished.”’
At age 70, she developed her signature style—large, abstract paintings filled with dense, irregular patterns of bright colors.
Alma was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, and she exhibited her paintings at the White House three times.
In 1978, two months before she died, Alma was asked “Do you think of yourself as a black artist?” She replied:
“No, I do not. I am a painter. I am an American. When I was in the South, that was segregated. When I came to Washington, that was segregated. And New York — that was segregated. But I always thought the reason was ignorance. I thought myself superior and kept on going. Culture is sensitivity to beauty. And a cultured person is the highest stage of the human being. If everybody were cultured we would have no wars or disturbance. There would be peace in the world.”
Egon Schiele was born June 12, 1890, in Tulln, Austria. At age 16, he was the youngest to enroll at Vienna’s Fine Arts Academy. He is known for his erotic paintings and anguished self-portraits.
He admired Gustav Klimt and the two formed a mentor-mentee relationship that had a major impact on Egon's art.
His studio became a gathering place for the town's delinquent children and Egon was accused of seducing a young girl. He spent 24 days in jail before those charges were dropped and he was released. Instead he was charged with immorality for drawing “pornographic” images. Police confiscated some of his drawings and one was burnt by a judge during trial. Egon was deeply traumatized by this and children rarely appeared in his work again.
Four days after his marriage, Schiele was drafted into the army. During the war, he worked on his art while guarding Russian prisoners.
In 1918, the Spanish flu spread throughout Austria. His wife Edith was six months pregnant when she died. Three days later, Egon died at the age of 28.
"I was in love with everything—I wanted to look with love at the angry people so that their eyes would be forced to respond; and I wanted to bring gifts to the envious and tell them that I am worthless." -Egon Schiele
Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid was born Fahrünissa Şakir into an elite Ottoman family on the island of Büyükada, Istanbul. She is best known for her large-scale abstract paintings with kaleidoscopic patterns. She also painted portraits and self-portraits (including a portrait of Donald Trump which I'll share in my Instagram story because that's only image I've found of it.)
When she was 12, her brother shot and killed their father. He received a 14-year prison sentence. She was one of the first women to attend the Fine Arts Academy in Istanbul and one of the country’s first modern women painters.
She first married a novelist and traveled across Europe, visiting Venice, Berlin and Paris, where she enrolled in art classes. Then the two settled back in Istanbul where she lost her her first son, Faruk, to scarlet fever.
She then divorced and remarried within the year to Arab prince, Zeid Al-Hussein, who was then Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey. They lived in Berlin and Baghdad.
In 1958, Zeid convinced her husband not to return to Baghdad and instead they were on vacation when a military coup in Iraq assassinated the entire royal family. She said of this time “I no longer feel any magic . . . Instead of the brilliant kaleidoscope . . . I can only perceive, all around me, a winding labyrinth of hard and heavy black lines.”
In 1970, Prince Zeid Al-Hussein died in Paris and Zeid moved to join her son in Amman. She taught and mentored young female artists there until her death in 1991.
"I am a descendent of four civilisations. In my self-portrait ... the hand is Persian, the dress Byzantine, the face is Cretan and the eyes Oriental, but I was not aware of this as I was painting it."
Jacob Armstead Lawrence was born on September 7, 1917 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His parents divorced when he was 7. Jacob and his siblings were placed in foster care in Philadelphia while his mother worked in New York City. When he was 13, he and his siblings moved to NYC and reconnected with their mother in Harlem.
At 20 Jacob won a scholarship to the American Artists School in New York, follows by a paid position for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. He had already developed his own style of modernism, and began creating narrative series, painting 30 or more paintings on one subject. He became known for his portrayal of African-American life using blacks and browns juxtaposed with vivid color.
Jacob was drafted into the United States Coast Guard. After being briefly stationed in Florida and Massachusetts, he was assigned to be the Coast Guard artist aboard a troopship, documenting the experience of war around the world. He produced 48 paintings during this time, all of which have been lost.
Back in New York, he continued to paint. He married Gwendolyn Knight, a sculptor and painter. After many years in New York, he and Gwendolyn moved to Seattle where Jacob was an art professor at the University of Washington.
"This is my genre...the happiness, tragedies, and the sorrows of mankind as realized in the teeming black ghetto." -Jacob Lawrence