Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Morris Hirshfield: “They Taught Themselves”

(Above) Morris Hirshfield, VIEW, Oil on canvas, 1945. 24 x 18 inches; Reproduced on the cover of VIEW magazine, October 1945
(Above) Morris Hirshfield, Dog and Pups, Oil on canvas, 1944. 32 x 42 inches.
(Above) Morris Hirshfield, Lion, Oil on canvas, 1939. 28-1/4 x 40-1/4 inches
(Above) Morris Hirshfield, Flower Garden, Oil on canvas, 1941. 26 x 36 inches
(Above) Morris Hirshfield, Cat and Two Kittens, Oil on canvas, 1945. 17 x 26 inches

A PRIZE IN MY LIBRARY IS A FIRST EDITION OF THE BOOK “They Taught Themselves: American Primitive Painters of the 2oth Century” by Sidney Janis (1942). This publication has long been considered a benchmark in the field of contemporary self-taught art. In that book, collector and gallery owner Janis showcases, as he put it “the lives of thirty human beings and 54 paintings.” The book contains interviews and numerous quotes from these 30 “primitive” artists.

One thing I must see while I am in NY later this week is the exhibition by the same name at Galerie St. Etienne, located at 24 West 57th Street. Featured will be 14 of the 30 artists in the original book, including my fave, Morris Hirshfield. The show will feature 6 paintings and 2 drawings by him.

My favorite of them all is Morris Hirshfield, who I have shown here. Not that Joseph Pickett, John Kane, Horace Pippin, Henry Church or Grandma Moses are not wonderful—it’s just that it pleases me to show (many of you perhaps for the first time?) the work of Morris Hirshfield (1872-1946). His work is as fresh, as exuberant and as exciting today as when the public first layed eyes on it back in the 1940s. A slipper manufacturer by trade, poor health forced Mr. Hirshfield into an early retirement—when he began to paint. In 1943, he was given a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art, which was quite controversial, especially with some of the art critics.

Note that the painting above entitled “View” was the cover art for the avant garde magazine by the same name.


Linda Davick said...


Unknown said...

What do you mean taught? Do you mean communicate without text?

Unknown said...

not sure why all the people who care arent here? but intuitive might also be a necessary word left out in the text description of mr hirshfield thanks for the post and happy fathers day

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