A Rare Assemblage: Works by Edward Corbett

Page 1

A Rare Assemblage Works by Edward Corbett



Early Modern to Contemporary

1335 Gusdorf Rd. Suite i . Taos . New Mexico 87571 575.751.1262 art@203fineart.com . 203FINEART.com

A Rare Assemblage Works by Edward Corbett 203 Fine Art presents a selection of rare paintings by Edward Corbett (1919-1971), one of the most accomplished and nationally recognized artists to have influenced modern art in Taos.

Reception: Saturday July 13th, 2019 | 5-7pm Exhibition Dates: July 13th - August 11th, 2019

“I intend my work as poetry” - Edward Corbett

INTRODUCTION In 1952, the year after he moved to Taos, Corbett’s work was included in a group show, titled 15 Americans, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. San Francisco Museum of Art curator Susan Landauer commented that if Corbett had remained in New York, he “might now be considered one of the better Abstract Expressionists.” Indeed, Corbett’s work stood out, even alongside the works of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Clyfford Still. Critic and Art News president Thomas Hess even called him “the most interesting new artist in the show.” Despite the publicity that followed the exhibition, Corbett left for New York shortly after, seemingly uninterested in capitalizing on his newfound fame. Throughout his life, Corbett would remain firm in his belief that artists should create independently, unconstrained by trends.

Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1919, Edward Corbett was the son of an army officer and spent his youth in the southwestern United States, Ohio, and the Philippines. In 1937, Corbett began art studies at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. During World War II, he was drafted into the army and merchant marine. After his discharge he spent a year in New York, then returned to California to teach at San Francisco State College. He then taught at the California School of Fine Arts for five years, along with Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still and Richard Diebenkorn. In 1951, he moved to Taos and in 1953 he moved to Massachusetts for a teaching position. During this time, he spent his summers between Taos, New Mexico and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and would later move to Washington, D.C.





PAGES 12-14

KATZMAN 9 2 7-










ROTHKO 18-20

STILL 21-23

FERBER 10-1 1




GLASCO 33-35


TOMLIN 24-26



Catalogue from the 1952 Museum of Modern Art exhibition, 15 Americans

Corbett’s works are in the permanent collections of major museums around the country, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the National Gallery of Art. More recently, his artwork was added to the White House Collection and exhibited during the Obama presidency. However, Corbett’s short but illustrious life and career left few of his works available to the public. We are fortunate to have been able to acquire several fine examples for this exhibition, which will likely be one of the largest showings of Corbett’s work since his 1990 retrospective at the Richmond Art Center in Richmond, California.

Untitled #7, 22 x 27.5�, casein & crayon on board, 1948 1

“I didn’t know what I was working towards. It was a mystery. The end was there but it was imagined.” - Edward Corbett

EARLY CAREER From late 1946 to 1947, Corbett, in his own words, “went underground”. Doubting the coherence of his work, Corbett avoided showing his work publicly for some time. That changed in 1948, when Corbett won the first prize for the Twelfth Annual Drawing and Print Exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art for his submission of a litho crayon drawing titled Composition (ca. 1947). He began to paint with increasing confidence, experimenting with freer compositions, jigsaw forms, pastels, and patches of green. These characteristics drew comparison with Diebenkorn’s Berkeley series of the same time period. The soft, colorful, yet muted forms exemplified in Untitled #7 (page opposite) are unique to this stage in his career.






1'.11', anti Alexander Burden. \\ Cagcv X York: I. Dreyfuss. York: PI-. Klotz,:\: Xew Yor.

h"i. Lee A. Ault, New Canaan, Connecticut: \1. Ring, New York; Mr. and Mrs. william A. M. «hington, D. C.; John Butler, New York; John York; M rs. Elizabeth Campbell Crain,New II Dickinson, Ncv ....York; Mr. and Mrs. Henry .sadcnar j osc ph H. Hirshhom, Portchestcr, New ,C. Johnson, New Canaan, Connecticut; A. 1. Rochelle, New York; Mrs. Samuel M. Kaatz, 'vl r and Mrs. Earle Ludgin, Hubbard Woods,

Dmgoll. 1950. Oil on canvas, 48 x 40". Lcnt by the Metrepolitan Museum of Art I ~'t


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World. 1951. Oil on canvas, ~ x 60". Lent by Mr. and Mrs. William A. :~d.Burden. Il!.!I. 13 5~, ~ 'to

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1951. Oil on canvas, 50 4'8 x 60". Lent bv Nelson A. 5~· igl Rockefeller. tu.« 1./

$ EE ~~di,ion,



5,;(. \ 'i 5"

Pai!lli/l.~. I 9,'}I , Oil on canvas, 67.Y:! x 48.J/g"


lllinois: \ .onso Ossorio, New York; Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Number r. 1951. Chalk and carbon pencil, 22 J/g x 1812" ~.:{. Palca.X 'York; Bcrnard }. Rcis, New York; Mrs.John D. RockefcliII I, New York; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New NtiI'FI.Nllmber 2. 1951. Chalk, ink and carbon pencil, 16M:'( 13~" ~. i'ork: LIre! \V. ROOl, Clinton, New York; Ansley W. Sawyer. I; Halo: Joseph R. Shapiro, Oak Park, Illinois; Joseph I -muh, Summit, New Jelsey; Clyfford Still, New York: \1 Eleanor '"V. Ultmann, New York; Mrs. Chaunc. I. Weddell, Riverdale, New York; Thomas Wilfred. <'- '..;t Nyack, New York; Dr. and Mrs. Alexander ~ ur-k. \'Volf, S

Number 3. 1951. Chalk, pencil and casein, 21 J4 x 13:j~" Number 9· 1951•



GaJJel' Willa


New York; Downtown Gallery, New York; »idida, Taos, New rVlexico; Kaatz Gallery, New Parsons Callery, New York; Curt Valentin \,' York; Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York; .I]cry, New York. , 1'\',

:\thencurn, Hanford, Connecticut; Congrcga,rael, Millhllrn, New Jersey; The Metropolitan ;\rt, Nt'w York; Springfield 1'vlUSCLllll of Fine

\\'HcI~\. lioll H

i\ I usell Arts. ~

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1951. Chalk, :14-% x 22%".



[951. Chalk, '22~

2 110dnll J)U'Gll.

1Q--l7, Oil on canvil~, 42 x 36Yil". The .\rr. A. Conger Goodyear Fund ~~

*_\i.!!,hl .1/111'/,'" 1947. Oil on canvas, ,John I). Rockefeller III. (fl.!). /2








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15. 1951. Chalk and casein, '27 x 14". III.!}. 6" Chalk,23x



/8. 195'2. Chalk, 237i x 18.J..i"

All works by Corbctt

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.73 S"'a. 1"1-1




lent by La Galeria


* Woodland




Scene. 1933-35' Oil on canvas,

7 I % x 681,-Z". Lent

,II .• 13from 6"iJ.. 'I ~ by An.oky W. Checklist ofSawyer. worksIll.lent La I Galeria Com/losilion IVlflr SIII/ LIe, 1933-37. Oil on canvas, Art 97 Escondida to the Museum of Modern Lent b~ ('he artist

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1938. Oil on canvas, 28% x 367"8'" Lent bv Ansley \-V. Sawyer ~ ~. J 'i


JVluseulll of



x 60". Lent by ;vlrs. 5 ;)..1 '0

III OliiOIl/eJ,

Villa Lr. PrilllemjJs. by the artist



1938, Oil on canva-", 23% x '2:8%". Lent

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Villa La ;\4ol/l'lte. 1938. Oil on canvas, 23"--Sx 28%". Lent by the Metropulitan !"v!llseutll of Art 5" iJ., I Z9 *Tlu





5.;(. 10 7

Siramierl Brig. 1934. Oil on canvas, 40}{ x 50". Lent by the Springfield Museum of Finc Ans, Springfield, Nlassachusctts (acquired through Public \Vorks of Art Project,

C.\T '.. OG <




Untitled, Taos, x 12.5” Iii, litle illdimlr.s 11101 11/1:work .J sim 18,illig In dim,· " \ lirigh! jwudes widlh. gouache & charcoal on paper, c. 1953 NFS, private collection Santa Fe \\ I Ll.l \.\! BAZIOT£S

a .""

Chalk and casein, 34% x 22"~"



1\.C:\. Cak:ri:1

Chalk, 33 x 223/g" tJ-

Number /0.1951.

5 ~.



oJ 0

1940. Oil on canvas, 231:! x 20%".



TAOS PERIOD On the recommendation of Clay Spohn, Corbett visited Taos several times, and in 1951 he moved to Taos as a well-known and respected artist. Upon relocating he joined the Taos Valley Art School, run by Louis Ribak. In 1952, shortly after settling in Taos, Corbett was included in a major group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, titled 15 Americans, along with Rothko, Still, Jackson Pollock, William Baziote, Bradley Tomlin and others. The works in the MOMA exhibition were all loaned by La Galeria Escondida in Taos, where Corbett was represented alongside close friends and colleagues Richard Diebenkorn, Robert McChesney and Clay Spohn. Although brief, the two years he spent living in Taos would lay the structural and thematic foundations of his work for years to come. Corbett acknowledged the impact of the Taos landscape on his painting, writing: “I admit to being influenced by not only nature out-ofdoors, but the nature within.” In personal notes and poems, he wrote frequently about his love of the New Mexican desert.

“One of the outstanding artists of his generation, Corbett was also the finest artist of his time in Taos.” - David L. Witt, Moderns in Taos

Photo of Corbett captioned: “Rio Grande near Taos”

Taos-1951, No. 7, 17.75 x 11�, pastel on paper, 1951


Drawing 31, 14.5 x 10.5�, paper on paper collage, 1966 NFS, private collection Santa Fe 4

EXPLORATIONS IN MONOCHROME In 1953 Corbett accepted a teaching position at Mt. Holyoke College and moved to South Hadley, Massachusetts. Although he continued to explore themes he had established in Taos, works from this period show the influence of New England. Evoking cracked ice and snow, he used extreme lights and darks to create fissure-like textures. Working in monochrome was a recurring interest for Corbett during the 1950’s. His series Black Paintings exerted considerable influence among artists,one being Ad Reinhardt. Corbett and Reinhardt had become close friends during Corbett’s brief stay in New York. In a letter to Corbett dated 1967, Reinhardt wrote that he had joked about the “black...subterranean-oceanic-quality” upon seeing Corbett’s monochromes in 1950. In the winter of 1955, Corbett began a monochromatic series that would span the next two years, titled Paintings for Puritans. The series consisted of all white-on-white paintings that honed Corbett’s sensitivity to subtle color. Corbett’s attention to this particular technique became critical in later paintings, where white was combined with areas of stronger color. Correspondence from Ad Reinhardt, 1967

Mt. Holyoke #43, 30 x 40�, charcoal on paper, 1955 5

Untitled, For Rosamond, 1963, 24 x 20�, acrylic on canvas, 1963 6

WASHINGTON, D.C. In 1963 Corbett underwent the amputation of his left leg and was forced to resign from his post at Mount Holyoke College. He then moved to Washington, D.C. to live with his wife, Rosamond Walling. The painting at left, Untitled For Rosamond, was completed that year. Despite his worsening health, Corbett produced more paintings during the last decade of his life than he had in the fifties. His intense focus during this time resulted in the culmination of techniques and ideas he had developed in previous decades: the phantom undercoat, attention to edges, and subtly radiating surfaces.

“The sense of serene yet life-filled landscape is never lost.� - John Canaday, the New York Times, March 8, 1964 (detail pictured at right)

Washington D.C., March, 1965, 40 x 50�, oil on canvas, 1965 7

P-T, 14 x 18.5�, ink & watercolor on paper, 1968 8

LATER YEARS Unlike many of his contemporaries, who experimented with non-archival materials and methods, Corbett never strayed from an unyielding commitment to craftmanship. He drew criticism for his subtle, cool and carefully constructed canvases, especially when the popularity of action painting was at its peak. His 1956 exhibition Paintings for Puritans, shown at the Grace Borgenicht Gallery in New York, shocked viewers who were accustomed to the bold, colorful works of de Kooning and Pollock. Even so, Corbett persisted in his uncompromisingly ascetic, resonant style of painting. In 1969, just two years before his death, Corbett was honored with a large-scale retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Art curated by Susan Landauer, a longtime champion of his work. In the catalogue, Landauer wrote of “a body of work of such excellence and quality that only the blind can mistake it.” In subsequent years, Corbett’s works have continued to garner recognition for their distinctive quality and technical mastery.

“I hope to do works which give the viewer the emotion of waiting, not the experience of possessing an event, but a mystery in [their] mind about what might happen.” - Edward Corbett

Provincetown VII (Aug #7), 18 x 15�, acrylic and pencil on paper, 1969 9

Bibliography “15 Americans.” The Museum of Modern Art, https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3294. Accessed 11 June 2019. Edwar Corbett: A Retrospective. Richmond Art Center, 1990. Edward Corbett. San Francisco Museum of Art, 1969. Landauer, Susan. The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism. University of California Press, 1996. The University of Maryland. Edward Corbett. Schneidereith & Sons, 1979. Witt, David L. Modernists in Taos: From Dasburg to Martin. Red Crane Books, 2002.

Edward Corbett, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, 1953



Early Modern to Contemporary

1335 Gusdorf Rd. Suite i . Taos . New Mexico 87571 575.751.1262 art@203fineart.com . 203FINEART.com

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