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Still Life of Flowers in a Jug , 1956

Still Life of Flowers in a Jug, 1956

Byron Browne (1907 – 1961)

Born in Yonkers, New York, Byron Browne was a central figure in many of the modernist artistic and political groups that flourished during the 1930s in New York City. He was an early member of the Artists’ Union, a founding member in 1936 of the American Abstract Artists, and a participant in the Artists’ Congress until 1940, when political infighting prompted Browne and others to form the breakaway Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors.

Browne’s artistic training followed traditional lines. From 1925 to 1928, he studied at the National Academy of Design, where in his last year he won the prestigious Third Hallgarten Prize for a still-life composition. Yet before finishing his studies, Browne discovered the newly established Gallery of Living Art. There and through his friends John Graham and Arshile Gorky, he became fascinated with Picasso, Braque, Miro, and other modern masters.

Although Browne destroyed his early academic work shortly after leaving the National Academy, he remained steadfast in his commitment to the value of tradition, and especially to the work of Ingres. Browne believed, with his friend Gorky, that “Every artist has to have tradition. Without tradition art is no good. Having a tradition enables you to tackle new problems with authority, with solid footing.”

Increasingly in the 1940s, Browne adopted an energetic, gestural style. Painterly brush strokes and roughly textured surfaces amplify the primordial undercurrents posed by his symbolic and mythical themes. In 1945 Browne showed with Adolph Gottlieb, William Baziotes, David Hare, Hans Hofmann, Carl Holty, Romare Bearden, and Robert Motherwell at the newly opened Samuel Kootz Gallery. When Kootz suspended business for a year in 1948, Browne began showing at Grand Central Galleries. In 1950, he joined the faculty of the Art Students League, and in 1959 he began teaching advanced painting at New York University.

Source: Virginia M. Mecklenburg. “The Patricia and Phillip Frost Collection: American Abstraction, 1930-1945″ (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), pp. 44-47. Copyright 1989 Smithsonian Institution. All rights reserved.

Biography from the Archives of AskART