Academy Art Museum Presents Modernist Inclinations The Art of Jan Matulka

. August 17, 2011 . 0 Comments

The Academy Art Museum presents Modernist Inclinations: The Art of Jan Matulka, on view OCTOBER 16, 2011.

In the 1920s and 30s, Jan Matulka (1890 1972) was a leader of New York art world promoting new modes of expression based on his experiences in Paris and across Europe. As an artist and a teacher he investigated and advocated Cubism, Surrealism, Precisionism and related movements. He was acutely aware of the accomplishments of his great predecessors like Cezanne as well as cutting edge figures of his own time such as Picasso, Matisse, and Vlaminck. He exhibited widely in commercial galleries and in major exhibitions at the Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Critics praised Matulka’s paintings and linked him to other American avant-garde artists like Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley and John Marin. Through his classes at the Art Students League and in private lessons he inspired a new generation of artists to pursue abstraction. However after the mid-1940s, Matulka’s career began to decline. He suffered a series of personal and professional misfortunes and stopped exhibiting for about two decades. A reassessment of his position within the history of Modernism in America began with the comments of sculptor David Smith in 1968 who regarded Matulka as his most important teacher and artistic influence. A major retrospective of his work toured the country from 1979 to1981.

The works in the Museum’s exhibition emphasize Matulka’s skill as both a colorist and as draughtsman even as he moved in and out of several stylistic genres. They are drawn from the artist’s estate and private collections. They point to Matulka’s engagement with themes typical of the Modern movement. Although he could alternate his mode of expression with great facility, he returned again and again to a well-established set of subjects. He was fascinated by seascapes and waterfront scenes, but also created expressive images of Paris and New York. He was passionate about music and depicted radios, turntables, and musicians with great frequency. Other subjects like trees seem to have intrigued him for their formal qualities, as he sought to move from expressive representation to pure abstraction.

Modernist Inclinations, The Art of Jan Matulka is underwritten in part by a gift from Mary Beth Cahill and Steve Champlin, PURE and Avon Dixon Agency and sponsored in part by the Maryland State Arts Council and the Talbot County Arts Council. The Academy Art Museum would also like to thank the Estate of Jan Matulka and the McCormick Gallery, Chicago Illinois for their assistance in organizing this exhibition.

Image: Jan Matulka Houses on a Cove, circa 1935, oil on canvas Courtesy McCormick Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

Category: Fine Art

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