The Modernist Landscape
Joseph Meierhans (1890 – 1980) was an important painter associated with Bucks County Modernism. His large body of work spans over five decades, beginning with a representational Ashcan style and evolving into variations of modernism, including cubist, semi-abstract, abstract, and abstract-expressionist works.
Meierhans felt closest in spirit to Kandinsky, of whom he explained, “His distinctive style consists of very loaded canvases – representational elements co-exist with abstract shapes”. Meierhans compared painting to composing music, often saying, “A painting must sing for the eye as music does for the ears”.
Born in Aargau, Switzerland, in 1890, Joseph Meierhans studied textile design in Zurich before coming to America in 1917. He first visited New York City while working for a Swiss textile mill. During this visit, he was offered a position with an American manufacturer as a textile designer and decided to stay. Meierhans was captivated by the New York art scene and soon began evening studies with Karl Knaths and later with John Sloan at the Art Students League from 1919-1921. He also studied with A. N. Lindenmuth in Allentown.
In 1932, Meierhans bought a unique 52-acre property in Hagersville, Pennsylvania, about fifteen miles from New Hope, and converted a 200-foot-long chicken coop into a studio and art gallery. For the next twenty-five years he divided his time between New York and Bucks County, devoting as much time as possible to his painting. In 1957 he retired from the textile business enabling him to concentrate solely on his art. A generous man dedicated to familiarizing people with the rich local artistic tradition, Meierhans made exhibition space in his gallery available to his fellow artists.
Meierhans exhibited in the 1940s and 1950s at the Artist’s Gallery in New York where he was the recipient of five one-man shows. He was a member of the American Abstract Artists group and exhibited with them in New York from 1946-1957 as well as Europe and Japan. He also exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Society of Independent Artists, the Salons of America, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Provincetown Art Association, American Federation of Artists Traveling Exchange, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Tokyo (1956), and the Crest Gallery, New Hope (solo 1958).
This exhibition, “Josef Meierhans – The Modernist Landscape”, shows the evolution of Meierhans approach to landscape in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. His watercolors from the 1930s are close in spirit to John Marin, and have the quality of early American modernists like Marin, Marsden Hartley and Georgia O’Keeffe, who imbued specific landscape with modernist emotion and heightened color. The pastels of the 1940s fall under the influence of early Abstract Expressionism with its interest in mythic subject matter. The casein paintings from the 1950s are more dramatic and gestural, and seem to have a visionary, even post-apocalyptic quality.
Together, this body of work shows an impressive range of quality and expression by an artist who deserves appreciation as an important American modernist.
Galerie Stockton is pleased to present exhibitions of historically rooted works on paper by important artists of the last 100 years. Galerie Stockton is curated and owned by Gary Snyder, a New York based art dealer who, for over 30 years, has developed a reputation for his focus on modern American art of the 1930s through the 1970s. Snyder has put together major collections of art, including the J. Donald Nichols collection of Modern American Art of the 1930s and 1940s, which was published as an Abrams book.
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