Wednesday, August 14, 2013
MORGAN RUSSELL AND SYNCHRONISM
Morgan Russell (1886 - 1953) was a modern American artist born and raised in New York City. Initially a student of architecture, he befriended sculptor Arthur Lee. From his association with Lee, he began studying sculpture at the Art Student's League. In 1906, he made his way to Europe to study in Paris and Rome, financed by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. 1907 found Russell back in New York City studying at the New York School of Art. Back in Paris in 1909 he studied at Henri Matisse's art school and met Picasso and Rodin.
Russell met Stanton MacDonald-Wright in Paris in 1911 where the two developed their theories on color and producing meaningful art. In 1912, they co-founded the art movement known as "synchronism" and held their first exhibition at Der Neue Kunstsalon in Munich, followed by another four months later in Paris. Russell and MacDonald-Wright were very hopeful for the acclaim and financial success of their work; hopes that were never met.
Prior to WW1, collectors, critics, and curators hesitated to embrace color abstractions. By 1920, the two men were so discouraged by the lack of acceptance and success they went their separate ways. MacDonald-Wright went back to his native California, married well and became well known in the Los Angeles art scene. Russell struggled financially and soon lapsed into relative obscurity.
Amazingly in the last three decades of the 20th century, synchronism finally received the scholarly and public attention that was so long overdue. The Whitney Museum of American Art launched a six museum travelling exhibition in 1978, devoted to color abstraction. This brought Morgan Russell's name to the public eye once again. His first retrospective was held at Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey in 1990. His work is shown today in the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the San Diego Museum of Art.
Image above, "Synchronism in Orange", by Morgan Russell.