Charles Green Shaw: Timeless Forms

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CHARLES GREEN SHAW TIMELESS FORMS Paintings from the 1930s and 1940s



As a key figure in early American abstraction, Charles Green Shaw was a unique amalgamation of a multifaceted life, education and career that resulted in a significant and beautiful body of art. Shaw holds the special recognition of being the only Americanborn artist to be awarded two solo exhibitions during his lifetime at Solomon Guggenheim’s Museum of Non-Objective Painting (MNOP).

He also was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group (AAA), established in 1936 in New York City to champion the understanding of abstract art. Henry Adams, Professor of Art History, Case Western Reserve University, described Shaw as such: Indeed, few American painters of the 1930s and 1940s left an oeuvre which is so varied and consistently original. The distinction that should be made . . . is that Shaw was not a framer of epics but a lyric poet. His paintings have something of the quality of Japanese haiku, by a poet such as Basho, which capture the metaphysical thrill of an ecstatic moment, with a clarity, a brevity, that is breathtaking. In this particular mode, Charles Green Shaw has no serious rival.1 Shaw took a circuitous journey to life as an artist. From a wealthy New York family, he graduated from Yale in 1914 and completed a year of architectural studies at Columbia. In the 1920s he pursued journalism, writing articles on the city nightlife for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Smart Set. Then in 1927, he began drawing, taking class at the Art Students League with Thomas Hart Benton and Georges Luks of the Ash Can School, delving into the tradition of portraiture, still life and landscapes. Whether it was writing, traveling, or creating artwork, Shaw was a combination of


intense observation, research, and education, followed by fearless and independent experimentation and pursuit. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he took a long trip to Europe, living in Paris and London, traveling to Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Florence, Rome, visiting museums, spending time with artists, reading about various genres of art, taking drawing classes, all while staying abreast of American trends. He met with fellow abstractionists Jean Hélion, Joan Miró and Le Corbusier in Paris, and with the artists Georges Braque, Constantin Brancusi, Wolfgang Paalen, Man Ray, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and John Ferren. This continuous and diverse exposure enriched Shaw’s development as an artist and allowed him to become a special and original combination of American and European aesthetics. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1933, Shaw began to depict abstracted versions of cityscapes, with the distinctly American imagery of the Manhattan

Charles Green Shaw in his studio, c. 1945, © Smithsonian Archives of American Art


Charles Green Shaw, 1918, © Smithsonian Archives of American Art

skyscrapers appearing in his compositions in various degrees of abstraction. His immersion into the city and its resulting influence on his art was likely furthered as he undertook photography of New York and Brooklyn, used alongside his 1936 article on historical sites and becoming the book New York-Oddly Enough in 1938. Sharing similar artistic pursuits and ideals in American abstraction as well as friendship, Shaw, along with the artists George L. K. Morris, Suzy Frelinghuysen, and Albert Eugene Gallatin, became known as the “Park Avenue Cubists,” a sophisticated group who pursued their own art and promoted the art of others. Galleries and institutions with varying artistic focuses exhibited the work of Charles Green Shaw. Julien Levy, whose gallery was a prime venue for Surrealism and the avant-gardes, showed his paintings in 1934, as did Valentine Dudensing, a major figure in modern art in New York. At the Gallery of Living Art—the first public collection of modern art in the U.S. (renamed 4

the Museum of Living Art in 1936)—the director A. E. Gallatin allowed for the institution’s first one-man exhibition by showing the art of Shaw, and additionally he acquired a piece for the collection. In the early 1940s, Katherine Dreier, founder of the Société Anonyme with Marcel Duchamp, encouraged Karl Nierendorf to exhibit Shaw’s work. He showed with the MNOP’s anniversary exhibition, and in the annual exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Institute and Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1940 Shaw exhibited extensively, with AAA, the Arts Club of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Seattle Art Museum, and Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York, becoming closer with Hilla Rebay, Rudolf Bauer and Rolph Scarlett. His paintings and reliefs were included in the New York World’s Fair exhibition, one of which Rebay acquired for the MNOP. Since the museum’s founding in 1939, Shaw was the only artist to be given a solo show until a 1941 exhibition of Lászó Moholy-Nagy and its memorial exhibition for Vasily Kandinsky in 1945. It is understandable that divergent locations would exhibit Shaw’s work, as his own personal artistic vocabulary contained diversified elements of modernism, including hints of Cubism, Surrealism, and Non-Objectivity. He took these influences and forged a personalized path with the use of subtle textural variations, experiments in shapes, fine elegant lines of delicate precision, and defined colors gently overlapping or hovering in space. He could express whimsy and lyricism with the shapes in his canvases, utilizing different composites and textures, leading to biomorphic wood reliefs with birdlike forms in flight. Forms alternate from the nearly recognizable to abstracted essence. In a 1938 AAA show he also contributed an essay, “A Word to the Objector,” to the accompanying book, writing: For honest painting, regardless of its representational or non-representational merits, embraces certain patent fundamentals. One seeks, for example, rhythm, composition, spatial organization, design, progression of color, and many, many other qualities in any aesthetic work. Charles Green Shaw’s works can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Brooklyn Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Yale University Art Gallery; Dallas Museum of Art. n

Notes: 1. Henry Adams, “Charles Green Shaw (1892–1974): A Portrait in Words.” Charles Green Shaw (1892– 1974): The 1930s & 1940s (New York: D. Wigmore Fine Art, Inc., 2007), 11.


CHARLES GREEN SHAW Concrete Form in Art Robert C. Morgan

The paintings of Charles Green Shaw represent an important place in the history of American abstraction. As an artist, Shaw’s intensely spirited manner of delivery, whether in organic or concrete terms, emanated from his own distinct point of view. As an abstract painter, he was respected and admired among colleagues and painters who worked in similar genres during the 1930s and ‘40s.


While many of his paintings continue to hold significant prestige, it would appear the artist’s reputation in general has been oddly, if not unaccountably overlooked. One might speculate on this conundrum as follows: Could it be that Shaw’s bold independent attitude as both a painter and writer challenged the status quo in a way that put him outside the norm? Or that his assiduous pragmatic perspective appeared to contradict the new expressionist forms that characterized avant-gardism in Europe at a time when influential American collectors began to find them attractive? In this light, the beginning of Shaw’s career as a painter developed precisely two decades after his graduation from Yale in 1914. By the outset of the 1930s his astute social prowess—gained through his early job as a peripatetic journalist that included introductions to various cultural elites— migrated toward art, specifically a desire to test the waters and to discover what he might do as an artist. It turned out that Shaw had an exceptional feeling for abstract form that declared its own presence and accuracy in a manner admired and understood by many as the necessary American counterpart to European intellectualism. His first solo exhibition was at the Valentine Gallery in 1934, with another major show at Albert Eugene Gallatin’s Gallery of Living Art the following year.

Still, Shaw’s isolated notion of being a painter who would essentially do what he wanted to do was an idea only marginally comprehended at the time. Working independently outside of the realist tradition was problematic for some artists despite the earlier efforts of Alfred Stieglitz’s Gallery 291. The scene in New York was simply not as diversified or as culturally sophisticated as that found in Paris. It was largely due to this perception that the Eurocentric bias crept into a major exhibition mounted in 1936 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.1 Titled Cubism and Abstract Art, and curated by MoMA’s Founding Director Alfred Barr, it appeared no accident that this exhibition of nearly 400 works had failed to represent a single American artist. Shaw, among his colleagues, which included Gallatin, George L. K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen, founded a group known as the Park Avenue Cubists and were all part of a relatively modest New York art scene. Yet the hard reality of their exclusion from MoMA’s abstract show, along with artists such as John Ferren, Charles Biederman, and Alexander Calder, not to mention some of the artists connected to the Baroness Hilla Rebay, suggested they would have to find an alternative route by which to receive the attention they deserved.2 This constituted the beginning of a quasi-elitist organization known as the American Abstract Artists, still in existence today. Shaw liked to paint with a primary focus on geometric abstraction. He was much less interested in the gesture or in pouring paint. The kind of geometric abstraction he preferred was what the De Stijl artist Theo Van Doesburg called “concrete art” (1930). Shaw enjoyed the certainty that his lexicon of geometric forms afforded him. He reveled in their specificity and precision. His most lauded works were those that followed a non-objective perspective where the lines and borders determined a clear-cut, autonomous composition. Shaw was keen on making clear distinctions. While his use of concrete form, as in Untitled (Intersecting Trapezoid No. 1) (p. 32), consisted primarily of rectilinear forms that overlaid one another lending themselves to perspectival illusion, Untitled (Intersecting Trapezoid No. 1) c. 1936 his “floating” organic forms suggested a free-form Surrealism as shown in Untitled 7

(Biomorphic Abstraction) (p. 23). In the latter case, the strong definitive lines are what held his wiggly organic shapes in space. These two approaches to painting—geometric/concrete and organic/ surrealist—are not often combined; rather they constitute separate approaches. Both make use of painterly textures, such as the sand and grit, in order to feel the sensation of the pigments, for example, in his Untitled (Intersecting Trapezoids) (p. 33). This gives Shaw’s paintings a more tactile quality rather than functioning solely as a surface design. Shaw’s paintings hold a persistent accuracy in the manner translating space and time into a visual phenomenon. Paintings from his well-known series, Plastic Polygon (1936) (p. 31), when seen together with his beatific Untitled (Polygon) (p. 39), painted around the following year (c. 1937), hold a quixotic sense of movement, an arbitration of time, as if settling into a sovereign space in slow motion. Each of these paintings Untitled (Biomorphic Abstraction) holds its own course. While the first is 1936 statuesque, the second delicately hovers, cultivating its ambiguity between machine and humanoid, (or more likely) surging within the guise of foreign matter, rumbling in steely silence towards an unknown future. His thinking as a painter was passionate and inexorable. Here in “A Word to the Objector” (1938), we are given the following: Art, since its inception, has never depended upon realism. Why, one cannot help wondering, should it begin now? Art, on the contrary, is (has been, and always will be) an appeal to one’s aesthetic emotion and to one’s aesthetic emotion alone.3 Untitled (Intersecting Trapezoids) c. 1936


Was Shaw a visionary? It is difficult to say. Visionaries are not easily categorized. Shaw began as an orphan adopted by a well-to-do family with

ties to the Woolworth Estate. He was a handsome boy with a proportionate sense of demeanor, largely due to his athletic propensity. As a grown-up in New York, he chose to live the perennial life of a bachelor, an ultra-socialite through most of his illustrious career. He collected paintings by the artists he admired and, despite the fact that he did not smoke, was an avid collector of wood-carved cigar store Indians that virtually filled his uptown apartment. Shaw wrote frequently advocating abstraction in art and was, in more popular venues, admired for his delightful children’s books, which he both wrote and illustrated.

Plastic Polygon 1936

Untitled (Polygon) c. 1937


Moonrise 1941

Home Nest 1941

Found Objects 1942


His later career was marked by an interest in poetry, which he wrote carefully and profusely and was able to publish in many prestigious periodicals and editions. In each of these ventures, Shaw was both prolific and precise. He worked on a daily basis, privately and diligently. Many saw him as a stalwart individual and a painter of exceptional merit. As for his visionary propensities, he was very much his own person. One might say that he worked from the inside out, that is, thinking ahead of what he wanted to do, while maintaining his options for change. He was known for his rigor and uncanny simplicity of means. His forms were no less than exacting, as were his choices of color that consistently worked purposefully in relationship to one another. Shaw was an inventive concrete artist more than a strictly formal one. He clearly chose not to work in an academic manner, but in accord with the kind of problem solving that would awaken his acute sensory dominion. If, in fact, Shaw were a visionary, this would be most apparent in his belief that aesthetic emotion was, indeed, the reality by which he chose to guide and fulfill his life. Painting was more than alluring to Shaw. It was a way to signify the world from the inside out, as noted earlier. This could be no more apparent than in such carefully attenuated works as Moonrise (1941) (p. 100), Home Nest (1941) (p. 96), Found Objects (1942) (p. 105) and Flowers and Pipe (1943) (p. 113). Despite the differences in these paintings, as they reveal a passageway between pure abstraction and a kind of lyrical representation of nature, Shaw

Flowers and Pipe 1943

was keen on keeping to the essentials in order to justify the appearance of the space in which his forms reside. These forms were tempered­in a way that suggested isolation or some aspect of temporariness. Clearly Shaw was intent on moving forward beyond the concrete in such works, yet at the same time keeping the concrete in view as an essential structure in order to allow nature to become significant—not as a representation, but as a holistic patterning of motion and time that Shaw apparently found capable of retrieving human values. Here he is dealing with subtly gener11

Abstract Forms II c. 1936

Polygon Composition 1936


ated forms that implied, if not inspired an organic constituency that ultimately became a visual relationship both to one another and to their visual function within his compositions. The painting, Abstract Forms II (c. 1936) (p. 29), transforms Cubist space into an overlaid grouping of sensuous curved shapes. It suggests the use of geometry more than it does free (organic) form. If one were to compare the semi-Cubist approach found in Polygon Composition (1936) (p. 34) with another work, Night Fantasy (1936) (p. 27), completed the same year, the difference should be apparent. Rather than a geometric configuration, one may detect a curvilinear free form, more likely to be found in an organic Surreal-style painting.4 At this juncture, it would be appropriate to cite a typed, undated document by the artist simply titled “STATEMENT” (all in caps). Relative to perceptions of his work earlier expressed, I find the following declaration holds for the reader an intensely moving aspect: “I believe that abstract art can express life without using life’s images and can create breath-taking beauty by the imaginative use of line and color.”5 One might think of Matisse or Bonnard in this regard, but certainly—as shown in the current exhibition—Shaw’s work has a certain quality of enlightenment that goes beyond a single identifiable style. As with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the polyvalent paintings of Charles Green Shaw are guided more by a principle than a single style. In his Princeton Lectures (1930), Wright also addressed the subject of beauty: “The

Necessity for Artistry, that is laid upon us by the desire to be civilized, is not a matter of appearances. Human necessity . . . carries within itself the secret of the beauty we must have to keep us fit to live . . . . That new beauty should be something to live for.�6 It has been stated that Shaw was a painter immersed in beauty. This is not an incidental observation. It was very much his reality. While standing in front of Composition in Construction (1940) (p. 82), an exemplary geometric painting composed with yellow and soft gray tones, we may sense more deeply the complexity of the composition. Our experience with such a painting largely Night Fantasy 1936

Composition in Construction 1940


depends on how deeply we are willing to look at the lines, planes, and color as a unity and, finally, to discover its visual completeness. The quiet tension that appears at the outset between these abstract elements offers a prelude to our ability to recognize the significance of the painting. Significance, in this case, refers to the heightened sensory affect that a painting may have on both our sensory and cognitive experiences. From Shaw’s point of view, these kinds of experience go beyond the bounds of normal, everyday seeing where the repetition of banalities holds sway. Like many painters, Shaw’s beginning involved searching for a way of making art that would become a guiding principle, a means by which to awaken the desire to give order to chaos and/or to explain chaos in a manner not always visible at the outset. This continued through the 1930s and into the mid–1940s when suddenly his world began to shift. This was largely due to the rise of critical attention being given to Abstract Expressionism, which can scarcely be overlooked as a major cause in the decline of an entire generation of painters who focused on geometric abstraction. Still, Shaw fervently maintained his belief that ‘beauty’ would always remain the hallmark of his art. He was primarily recognized and understood as a painter of concrete abstract forms, which he suggested came closest to life in a major urban metropolis, i.e., New York City. In many ways, Charles Green Shaw became the thinking man’s artist or, for some, the painter’s painter. In contrast to the Abstract Expressionists, his gift was to explain the feeling of transformation that occurs in the solitude of painting during which aesthetic emotions come into full view. His was an intimate approach to art, yet one that never deserted the urban social life, which he proudly continued to maintain. n

Notes: 1. Henry Adams, “Charles Green Shaw (1892–1974): A Portrait in Words.” Charles Green Shaw (1892– 1974): The 1930s & 1940s (New York: D. Wigmore Fine Art, Inc., 2007), 6. 2. The artists connected to Hilla Rebay, a painter herself, were already known to her by 1936, when the exhibition opened. This was prior to the opening of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (1939–1952) in New York. They included a mix of Europeans and American emigrants. 3. Charles Green Shaw, “A Word to the Objector,” American Abstract Artists 1938 Yearbook. 4. Adams, op. cit., p. 7. 5. Charles Shaw, “Statement” (typewritten sheet, undated). 6. Frank Lloyd Wright, “Princeton Lectures,” The Future of Architecture (New York: Horizon, 1953).


Charles Green Shaw, c. 1946


PLASTIC RHYTHMS 1940 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 16 inches

PLASTIC RHYTHMS 1940 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 16 inches

CHARLES GREEN SHAW CHRONOLOGY 1935–1946 Excerpts compiled from the artist’s journals in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian*

Self Portrait, Charles Green Shaw © Smithsonian Archives of American Art

*Excerpted from research and texts of Emily Lenz


1935 In January Shaw inspects the Gallery of Living Art, New York’s first gallery devoted to modern art directed by A. E. Gallatin. Shaw finds the exhibition of Picasso, Braque, Gris, and others very interesting. He reads the accompanying catalogue and returns a few times. Shaw meets Gallatin at a luncheon hosted by their mutual friend Hermann Oelrichs in April and is invited to see Gallatin’s private collection. Shaw notes several excellent Mirós, a number of Braques, a Gris sculpture, a Brancusi sculpture, two Hélions, and two Torres-Garcias. Shaw then shows Gallatin about 30 of his paintings at the Drake. Gallatin is greatly impressed and returns soon after with George L. K. Morris, the Gallery of Living Art’s curator. They pick eight paintings for a one-man exhibition at the Gallery of Living Art and select another work for the Gallery’s permanent collection. Shaw’s exhibition opens at the end of April and is the first one-man exhibition held at the gallery. Gallatin and Morris introduce Shaw to important art people in New York and Paris. Through Morris, Shaw meets James Johnson Sweeney and Charles Biederman in New York and through Gallatin, he meets Jean Hélion and John Ferren in Paris. Shaw also extends his art world connections through the Dudensings with whom he frequently has dinner and socializes. Valentine Dudensing guides Shaw in his career, selecting four paintings to show the Whitney Museum for purchase and placing his work in group exhibitions at his gallery and elsewhere. With the success of his exhibition at the Valentine Gallery, Shaw looks into exhibiting with various art associations. In 1935 Shaw exhibits with the College Art Association, the Society of Independent Artists, and the Salons of America. Shaw is not without his own connections, continuing his friendships established in the literary world during the 1920s. Shaw shows his canvases to author Thomas Wolfe, who likes Shaw’s abstractions best, and his old friend Cole Porter. In January Shaw nails painted wooden forms onto a board, creating his first construction. In March Shaw begins to work with stencils after admiring Picasso’s stencil work at the Museum of Modern Art the year before. Throughout the spring Shaw weeds out canvases which he scrapes down and reuses. Shaw works extensively in collage and 19

continues to use a sand border in some of his abstractions. Shaw has his assistant Campruli photograph his canvases and uses the photos in Europe to discuss his work with fellow artists. In Paris Shaw spends time with Wilmer Hoffman with whom he attends the salon of Baroness Gourgaud who has works by Picasso, Braque, Gris, Matisse, and Léger. Shaw is contacted by the abstract painter Jean Hélion, and the two artists spend the summer in dialogue about each other’s work. Shaw also attends the vernissage of Joan Miró’s exhibition at the Galerie Pierre and speaks with the artist. With the Dudensings, Shaw visits Le Corbusier’s apartment where he admires the modern interior and art collection. With Gallatin, Shaw visits the dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler to see his fine collection of Juan Gris’ work. The two also visit Georges Braque where Shaw admires his two studios which he describes as “real workshops.” When Shaw and Gallatin visit Jean Arp’s studio, Shaw and Arp make a connection. Reviewing photographs of Shaw’s work, Arp calls him one of the best American abstractionists, and Shaw purchases one of Arp’s reliefs. Gallatin also introduces Shaw to John Ferren. When Shaw visits Ferren’s studio, he is impressed by Ferren’s skillful technicality and achievement of texture with sand, repolin, and other media. After the visit, Shaw buys repolin and begins experimenting with it. Ferren examines Shaw’s work providing worthwhile criticism and takes Shaw on a studio visit to Wolfgang Paalen, who then reviews Shaw’s canvases, and a dinner at Man Ray’s home where he has a number of Miró constructions and works by Alberto Giacometti and Max Ernst.

Exhibitions Charles Green Shaw at the Gallery of Living Art, opens April 27; American painters exhibition at Valentine Gallery (three abstractions by Shaw included with work by Louis Eilshemius, John Kane, Milton Avery, Joseph Stella, Raphael Soyer, John Koch; Shaw’s large abstraction is sold to Walter Chrysler, Jr.); group exhibition at the Modern Age Gallery, March 11–April 13 (other artists include Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Stuart Davis, Adolf Dehn, Ernest Fiene, Guy Pène du Bois); College Art Association Annual (exhibition travels across United States for six months); Society of Independent Artists Annual; Salons of America Annual. 20


1935 Oil on board 16 x 12 inches 21

1936 In response to A. H. Barr, Jr.’s lack of American artists in the upcoming exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art, Gallatin, Morris, and Shaw plan an American abstraction exhibition with five works each by Morris, Shaw, John Ferren, Charles Biederman, and Alexander Calder. The exhibition is titled Five Concretionists, a term Shaw says he coined as he felt ‘abstract’ was used wrongly—as in an ‘abstract idea,’ but the word should mean ‘extract.’ As Shaw said in an interview late in his life, “[Paintings] could be abstracted true enough but they were concrete and not the idea of an abstract in law.” On March 6, Gallatin, Shaw, and Morris hang the exhibition at Reinhardt Gallery out of which Shaw sells three works. Gallatin, Morris, and Shaw travel to Paris for the summer, where Gallatin has organized the Concretionist exhibition to be at the Galerie Pierre, Paris. The exhibition then travels to the Mayor Gallery, London. The Paris and London exhibitions are more varied than the New York version, and Shaw exhibits his Plastic Polygons for the first time. At the vernissage are Jean Hélion, Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Wolfgang Paalen, A. H. Barr, Jr., César Domela, and many others. Despite Shaw’s criticism of A. H. Barr, Jr.’s focus on European artists in the exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art and the staging of his own American abstraction exhibition, he is elected to the Museum of Modern Art’s Advisory Board, MoMA’s effort to develop young collectors to become future trustees. Impressed by a 1935 Paris exhibition of Kandinsky’s rug patterns, Shaw spends much of the winter making rug designs and placing completed rugs with various dealers and decorators. Shaw also starts painting surrealist canvases of hand, arm and foot shapes in bold colors against bright backgrounds. Stemming from these works, Shaw begins another series he calls “bone and shell forms.” Shaw also reads a book on Surrealism and writes some surrealist verse. continued on page 30


UNTITLED (BIOMORPHIC ABSTRACTION) 1936 Oil and sand on canvas 16 x 20 inches


ANATOMICAL DESCENDANTS 1936 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 16 inches


BIOMORPHIC SEASCAPE 1936 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 16 inches



1936 Oil on canvasboard 16 x 12 inches 26


1936 Oil on canvasboard 16 x 12 inches 27

ABSTRACT FORMS II c. 1936 Oil on canvas 36 x 26 inches


continued from page 22

The idea for his Plastic Polygons comes to Shaw in April as he walks home from the theater one evening. Shaw writes in his journal, “On my way home I think of a new kind or rather- shapeof canvas, several sketches of which I made after I arrive home.” Shaw experiments with different materials and techniques for his constructions, which he begins to call ‘polygons.’ He first uses shellrock for his designs which break; next he tests different composites of varnish and texture effects. Shaw decides to make his constructions out of wood which he first cuts himself. Finding his carpentry skills inadequate, Shaw has his studio assistant Campruli take his designs to be cut by professional woodcutters. Shaw initially purchases readymade wooden forms which he affixes to his shaped panels, but he soon designs those forms as well. At the end of April Shaw frames his first two polygons and in May shows his new work to the Dudensings and Gallatin. In the fall Shaw works on polygons and starts making biomorphic reliefs, working in plywood and white wood which he paints, and balsa and mahogany which he shellacs. Shaw spends time locating the best wood supply stores, eventually using Hasbrook for both purchasing and cutting wood. Shaw spends his studio time designing and building his constructions, while in the evening he sands and finishes the wooden forms as he listens to the radio at home. In December James W. Lane, Professor of Art History at New York University, uses two of Shaw’s canvases in a lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the following year asks Shaw to speak about his art at the museum.

Exhibitions Five Contemporary American Concretionists at Reinhardt Gallery, March 9–March 31, the exhibition is retitled Five American Painters at Galerie Pierre, Paris and Abstractions by American Artists at Mayor Gallery, London; Salons of America Annual (exhibits Concretion-No.4); group exhibition at Yale Club (exhibits a 5 by 4 foot bone and shell forms canvas); group exhibition at Museum of Living Art (exhibits a Plastic Polygon).



1936 Oil on canvas 25½ x 21½ inches 31

UNTITLED (INTERSECTING TRAPEZOID NO. 1) c. 1936 Oil and sand on canvasboard 18 x 15 inches


UNTITLED (INTERSECTING TRAPEZOIDS) c. 1936 Oil and sand on board 18 x 15 inches


POLYGON COMPOSITION 1936 Oil on board 16 x 13 inches



1936 Shaped and painted wood relief 20½ x 17 inches 35

1937 After visiting the Museum of Modern Art’s Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism exhibition in December 1936, Shaw conceives an idea for a Wrigley’s Chewing Gum poster. Shaw pursues the Wrigley poster in January, contacting the New York offices and then the Chicago headquarters. Shaw is encouraged to pursue the poster when he receives his printed Shell-Mex poster. Shaw inspects the exhibition Posters by E. McKnight Kauffer at the Museum of Modern Art and uses gouache, collage, and stencil in his poster preparation. In April Shaw completes the Wrigley poster canvas and is told the Chicago office would like to see it. Shaw mails the head office a colored photograph of the poster and the following year delivers a model of the poster to the Wrigley’s Chicago headquarters in person. The poster is never made, but the related painting is now in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Shaw continues to be active with the Museum of Modern Art, regularly attending meetings of the Advisory Board and the Purchase Committee, as well as visiting new exhibitions with his studio assistant Campruli. In May A. H. Barr, Jr. visits Shaw’s home to review his work, and in October Barr asks Shaw to review potential purchases in the new location of the Museum of Modern Art at 14 West 49th Street. Shaw considers new technologies for his art and looks into building a movable abstraction using magnets with his friend Hermann Oelrichs. Shaw notes in his journal, “To H.O.’s with 3 forms and a 4 x 3 feet plan for magnetic abstraction.” Unfortunately, the estimated cost of the magnetic device to move the forms is $450 so the project is not completed. Shaw then considers a three-sided polygon set on a triangular revolving pedestal. Shaw visits artist Harry Holtzman to see his experiments with airbrushes and tape using casein and ground colors as a medium. Shaw is interested in this technique but finds the price of airbrushes too expensive. For the spatter effect in Shaw’s work of the late 1930s and early 1940s, he uses a spatter brush. Shaw begins to make cigar box abstractions, painting the lids to give flat works a sculptural feel, and continues to create polygons and biomorphic reliefs.


Shaw expands his New York art circle greatly when he becomes a founding member of the newly formed American Abstract Artists along with his friend Morris. They attend their first meeting in early February at Balcomb Greene’s studio. Shaw notes about twenty artists present, including Balcomb and Gertrude Greene, Daniel Turnbull, Carl Holty, Albert Swinden, and Wilfrid Zogbaum. Shaw and Morris regularly attend AAA meetings, participate in the planning of exhibitions, and are active on several committees. On April 2 the first exhibition opens at the Squibb Building, and Shaw has six works on view, including one large polygon, two small polygons and two reliefs. On June 10 Shaw sails for Paris. While on the ship, Shaw meets Hilla Rebay, curator of Solomon R. Guggenheim’s collection, who gives Shaw a catalogue of the collection. While aboard, Shaw notes in his journal an idea he has for his reliefs after a solitary walk on the upper promenade deck, “(1) After the forms are cut, as drawn, sandpaper- or smooth off- the sharp edges so that they resemble a fairly well-used cake of soap. This will greatly eliminate—if not remove entirely—the mechanical quality and give a much more sensitive feeling to them. (2) To eliminate shadow paint shadows wherever they will naturally fall.” At the end of November, Shaw works on his only published pieces of art writing. One is “A Word to the Objector” for the American Abstract Artists’ 1938 Yearbook which is a modification of ‘the picturesque’ article he discussed with Jean Arp for Plastique.

Exhibitions American Abstract Artists at the Squibb Building, April 3–April 17; Shaw, Gallatin, Morris, and Frelinghuysen at Reinhardt Gallery, March 29–April 17; Selected Exhibition from the Walter Chrysler Jr. Collection at Detroit Institute of Arts, October 5–October 31; American Abstract Artists at the Fine Arts Building, Columbia University.


UNTITLED (POLYGON) c. 1937 Oil and sand on canvasboard 17 x 20 inches



1938 Shaw has a solo exhibition at Valentine Gallery which opens March 28. The exhibition has 26 works, including several polygons and many reliefs in natural or painted wood. In The New York Sun on April 2 Henry McBride writes in his review of the exhibition, “In the present group of works Mr. Shaw includes one or two rhapsodies upon the skyscraper idea, and then goes on to pastures new. Or rather he looks into the skies that hover above the pastures and sees birds. He does not identify them as ornithological specimens but notes the effect they make in flight and in relation to each other.” Out of this exhibition Shaw sells a pair of small polygons to a fellow member of the Museum of Modern Art’s Advisory Board, Katherine Urquhart Warren. In April Morris and Gallatin help Shaw select six works (three polygons, one large painted cut-out, and two natural wood reliefs) for an exhibition of the three artists’ work to be held at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. Shaw participates in the American Abstract Artists’ second annual exhibition at the American Fine Arts Galleries on West 57th Street in February. The exhibition has about 7,000 visitors and is accompanied by an 80-page yearbook including nine essays by the group’s members. Shaw’s essay, “A Word to the Objector” opens the catalogue and addresses the common complaints against abstract art. In his conclusion, Shaw suggests the art lover who does not appreciate abstract painting may not appreciate art at all. He writes, “For honest painting, regardless of its representational or non-representational merits, embraces certain patent fundamentals. One seeks, for example, rhythm, composition, spatial organization, design, progression of color, and many, many other qualities in any aesthetic work.”

DAY BREAK CONSTRUCTION 1938 Painted wood relief 40 x 30 inches 40

Shaw receives a visit from Rolph Scarlett in May who brings a portfolio of about 80 gouaches and watercolors. Shaw then visits the Guggenheim collection at the Plaza Hotel where he talks with Hilla Rebay and John D. Graham. In June Rebay visits Shaw to see his polygons and reliefs. Rebay is on the same ship to Paris as Shaw leading them to have further conversations on art. Shaw revisits the Guggenheim Collection at the Plaza in December. In November Shaw prepares for an exhibition with Gallatin and Morris at Jacques Seligmann & Co. to be held January 16 to February 8, 1939. Shaw designs the brochure’s envelope and thinks up a new form for his Plastic Polygons which he works out in gouache on cardboard panels. The 1938 polygons are composites of stacked quadrilaterals in relief against a bi-colored background panel. Shaw exhibits five of these works in the 1939 Seligmann exhibition.

Exhibitions Second Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at American Fine Arts Galleries, February 14–February 28; American Abstract Artists at the 92nd Street Y, New York; Charles Green Shaw at Valentine Gallery, opens March 28; Gallatin, Morris, and Shaw at Galerie Pierre, Paris, June 15–June 30.



1938 Mixed media and oil on canvas 28 x 24 inches 43


1938 Painted wood relief 19½ x 22 inches 44


1938 Painted wood relief 22 x 30 inches 45

“I begin with an idea and end with an idea. In between an involvement of form both loses and finds itself.” —Charles Green Shaw

BONE STRUCTURE 1938 Oil on canvas 35 x 45 inches

LIGHT PROGRESSIONS 1938 Gouache on paper 20 x 15 inches



1939 Shaw, Morris, and Gallatin’s exhibition opens at Jacques Seligmann & Co. on January 15. The exhibition receives favorable reviews in The World-Telegram, The New York Sun, and Art News. One of Shaw’s reliefs is reproduced in Art Digest. The exhibition travels to several institutions in 1940. In May Shaw delivers a small cut-out relief to the Valentine Gallery for the Dudensings to take to Paris for a group abstract exhibition. Shaw, Gallatin, and Morris also have an exhibition at the Berkshire Museum in July where Shaw exhibits both paintings and reliefs. Morris includes slides of Shaw’s work in a lecture he gives at Yale University. Shaw continues to attend Museum of Modern Art Advisory Board meetings. At the end of November, he attends a tea for artists given by Hilla Rebay. In February Shaw writes a few short verses of “hoksy lillipottle” (new words with new meanings) and makes accompanying illustrations. Shaw notes, “There might be a child’s book in this idea, which would introduce ABSTRACT forms and perhaps ABSTRACT words.” This concept is used in 1944 for Shaw’s book, It Looked Like Spilt Milk. Over the course of the year, Shaw creates 15 children’s stories with illustrations. Shaw meets regularly with the book committee of the AAA to create a catalogue for the third annual exhibition. The committee includes Gallatin, Morris, Balcomb Greene, Ibram Lassaw, Harry Wildenberg, and Daniel Turnbull. Shaw designs the catalogue cover and an exhibition poster. The third annual opens March 6 at the Riverside Museum where Shaw exhibits three paintings, two reliefs, and a large 1938 stacked quadrilaterals polygon, as well as a number of gouaches and watercolors. The exhibition receives a favorable review in The World Telegram. With the exhibition’s success, Shaw, Alice Trumbull Mason, and Harry Wildenberg organize an exhibition of the group’s work to travel in 1940.



1939 Gouache on board 10 x 8 inches 51

Shaw moves to 340 East 57th Street in September where he sets up a 14 by 14 foot studio in his apartment. Shaw remains in this apartment the rest of his life. While Shaw displays little of his work in his public rooms, he hangs a group of reliefs in his back hall and collages in his bathroom. Shaw covers his studio walls with about 40 paintings from different years so he always has a vision of what he has done.

Exhibitions Recent Paintings by Gallatin, Morris, Shaw at Jacques Seligmann & Co., January 16–February 8; Third Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at Riverside Museum, March 7–March 28; Gallatin, Morris, and Shaw at Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, June 29–July 23.



1939 Gouache on artist board 16 x 12 inches 53


Gouache on artist board 10½ x 8½ inches



1939 Gouache on artist board 11 x 8½ inches 55


1939 Oil on artist board 11 x 8½ inches 56


1939 Oil on board 16 x 12 inches 57

“I believe that abstract art can express life without using life’s images and can create breath-taking beauty by the imaginative use of line.” —Charles Green Shaw



1939 Oil on wooden box mounted on board 14 x 9 inches 59

COMPOSITION IN BROWN, YELLOW AND WHITE 1939 Gouache on artist board 16 x 12 inches



1939 Gouache on artist board 11 x 8½ inches 61


1939 Gouache on artist board 11 x 8½ inches 62


1939 Gouache on canvasboard 11 x 8½ inches 63

IN THE OPEN (TEXTURED COMPOSITION) 1939 Oil and sand on canvasboard 38½x 26½ inches



1940 Shaw has an extensive exhibition schedule with solo exhibitions at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting and the James O’Toole Gallery. He participates in group exhibitions of the American Abstract Artists and at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. Gallatin, Morris, and Shaw’s traveling exhibition goes to the Arts Club of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Honolulu Academy of Art. In February Shaw visits the Guggenheim Collection at the Plaza Hotel where he speaks with Hilla Rebay and Balcomb Greene. In March Rebay reviews Shaw’s recent work and offers him a solo exhibition at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The exhibition of 13 paintings is hung on April 2 and is reviewed in Art News and The New York Times. Shaw becomes closer to Rebay, Rudolf Bauer, and Rolph Scarlett during the spring. He drives back to New York with Bauer from an afternoon at Rebay’s house in Connecticut where abstract movies by Oskar Fischinger were shown. Shaw attends one of Rebay’s lectures at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in July and has two paintings included in the museum’s group exhibition in November. Shaw visits the New York World’s Fair in May after it opens for its second season. He visits the American Arts Building and speaks with Joseph Danysh (West Coast regional consultant in the 1939 World’s Fair exhibition American Art Today) in regards to an AAA exhibition. Shaw then mails Danysh drawings for a construction he would like to make. Ibram Lassaw learns of Shaw’s designs for a World’s Fair kinetic sculpture and offers to help in its construction. The two purchase a motor, belt, pulleys, and pressed wood which they use to build the sculpture with Byron Browne’s help in just five days. On June 19 the three artists install the work at the AAA exhibition at the World’s Fair. Shaw also has paintings and reliefs in the exhibition, one of which Rebay purchases for the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. Shaw returns to the World’s Fair in 1940 on separate occasions with Gallatin, the Morrises, and his girlfriend Billie, to visit pavilions such as American Art of Today and the Houses of Tomorrow.


NON–OBJECTIVE ORGANIZATION 1940 Oil on canvasboard 18 x 14¾ inches


Exhibitions American Abstract Artists at University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, MN; Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA; and Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI; Recent Paintings and Constructions by A. E. Gallatin, George L. K. Morris, and Charles Green Shaw at Arts Club of Chicago, March 5–March 23; American Abstract Art (Shaw, Gallatin, Morris, and Frelinghuysen) at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 21– June 10; Charles Green Shaw: Thirteen Recent Paintings at Museum of Non-Objective Painting, April 2–May 13; American Abstract Artists at Galerie St. Etienne, May 22–June 12; Fourth Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at American Fine Arts Galleries, June 5– June 16; American Abstract Artists at New York World’s Fair; Group exhibition at Museum of Non-Objective Painting; Watercolors by S. G. Charles at James O’Toole Gallery, December 16–December 31.


UNTITLED (WOOD CONSTRUCTION) 1940 Painted wood composite construction 17 x 12 inches



1940 Oil on canvasboard 16 x 12 inches 70


1940 Oil on canvasboard 10 x 8 inches 71

VERTICAL PROGRESSION 1940 Oil on canvasboard 14 x 10 inches



1940 Oil on composition board 16 x 12 inches 73


1940 Oil on canvasboard 20 x 16 inches 74

COSMIC COMPOSITION 1940 Oil on canvas 30 x 22 inches


NON–OBJECTIVE ARRANGEMENTS IN BLACK, WHITE, GRAY 1940 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 9 inches



1940 Oil on canvasboard 16 x 12 inches 77

NAUTICAL POSITION 1940 Oil on canvasboard 30 x 22 inches



UNTITLED (ABSTRACT ON WHITE) 1940 Oil on canvas 211/8 x 18 inches



1940 Oil on canvasboard 14 x 10 inches 81

COMPOSITION IN CONSTRUCTION 1940 Oil on canvasboard 18 x 14 inches



1940 Oil on composition board 16 x 12 inches 83


1940 Oil on composition board 16 x 12 inches 84


1940 Oil on canvasboard 16 x 12 inches 85

RHYTHMIC ORGANIZATION II 1940 Oil on canvasboard 183/8 x 14 inches



1940 Gouache on canvasboard 18½ x 12 inches 87


1940 Oil on canvasboard 16 x 12 inches 88


1940 Oil on canvasboard 21 x 18 inches 89


1940 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 16 inches 90


1940 Oil on canvasboard 16 x 12 inches 91

HOMMAGE TO KLEE 1940 Oil on artist board 12 x 9 inches



1941 Shaw has his second solo exhibition at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. The exhibition includes 26 paintings and opens February 11. Since the museum’s founding in 1939, Shaw is the only artist to be given a solo exhibition. Shaw participates in the fifth annual exhibition of the American Abstract Artists in February where he exhibits five paintings and four collages. Katherine Dreier asks Shaw and Morris to speak at the Women’s Association in New York. Dreier viewed Shaw’s work in 1940 and encouraged Galerie Nierendorf to have an exhibition of it. Frank Crowninshield remains a close connection for Shaw, reviewing his work in May. Shaw resigns from the Advisory Board of the Museum of Modern Art after a May 14 meeting. Two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Shaw creates designs for a Red Cross poster, using a spatter brush and miniature American flags. After the United States declares war on Japan, Shaw is designated the floor warden for his building and studies Red Cross first aid manuals. This leads to an extensive first aid course with the Dudensings in 1942.

Exhibitions Charles G. Shaw: 26 New Paintings at Museum of Non-Objective Painting, February 11–March 10; Fifth Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at Riverside Museum, February 9–February 23; group exhibition for British War Relief, opens October 28.

ISLAND ABSTRACTION 1941 Oil on canvasboard 30 x 22 inches 94


1941 Oil on canvasboard 9 x 12 inches 96


1941 Oil on canvasboard 9 x 12 inches 97


1941 Oil on canvasboard 9 x 12 inches




1941 Oil on canvasboard 10 x 11½ inches 100


1941 Oil on canvasboard 10 x 8 inches 101

1942 In January Shaw has three paintings in the American art exhibition at Macy’s Department Store. The exhibition shows current trends in American painting selected by dealer Sam Kootz and its section on abstraction includes Morris, Ilya Bolotowsky, Carl Holty, and Jean Xceron, among others. In March Shaw has three paintings in the American Abstract Artists exhibition which he helps hang at the American Fine Arts Galleries. Shaw has a canvas on exhibit at the Museum of Living Art for a group exhibition which opens March 16 and leaves another canvas at the museum in August. Shaw participates in exhibitions for the Red Cross and the Navy League. Shaw delivers four paintings to the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in March and two more in June for the museum’s fifth anniversary exhibition. At the end of September Shaw sends a painting to the Art Institute of Chicago for its annual exhibition of American painters and sculptors. In April artist and gallery owner Manfred Schwartz visits Shaw to request he join the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, founded in 1940 as a break-away group of the Artists’ Congress. Advancing modern work in a broader stylistic range than the AAA, the founding members include Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Stuart Davis, as well as AAA members Ilya Bolotowsky and Balcomb Greene. Shaw exhibits with the group but is not involved in its committees. With the United States at war, Shaw signs up for a camouflage course at Columbia University. The course begins September 25 with a 32-member class chosen from over 200 applicants. The class meets twice a week for two months and involves lab work. Shaw works regularly on his camouflage model and reads a variety of books on camouflage. After Shaw completes the course, he looks into applying for the Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft group but is told he is too old to be commissioned. Shaw then decides to seek further education in camouflage, applying for an advanced camouflage course at New York University to which he is accepted. Shaw spends at a minimum nine hours a week doing lab work in the winter and spring of 1943.



1942 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 9 inches 103

Exhibitions Sixth Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at American Fine Arts Galleries, March 9–March 23; group exhibition at Museum of Living Art; An Exhibition of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors at Wildenstein & Co. (exhibits three paintings); United Hemispheres Poster Competition at Museum of Modern Art, October 21–November 24; American Painting and Sculptures 53rd Annual at Art Institute of Chicago, October 29–December 10.



1942 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 9 inches 105

IRREGULAR CONSTRUCTION 1942 Oil on canvasboard 30 x 22 inches


GEOMETRIC CONSTRUCTION 1942 Oil on canvasboard 30 x 22 inches


SACRED PLACES 1942 Oil on canvasboard 12 x 14 inches




1942 Oil on canvasboard 16 x 20 inches 110


1942 Oil on board 12 x 16 inches 111

1943 At the end of 1942, New York University reclaims the Museum of Living Art’s exhibition space. Gallatin closes the museum and in 1942 gives the collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gallatin purchases another example of Shaw’s work to include in his gift to Philadelphia. In March Shaw leaves three paintings at the Riverside Museum for the American Abstract Artists annual exhibition. Shaw exhibits one painting in the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors exhibition at Wildenstein & Co. in June. In October he shows a portrait of Ernest Boyd at the Federation’s portrait exhibition. Shaw attends the Advanced Camouflage course at New York University and sees a camouflage exhibit of the 909th Air Force Engineers at Macy’s. In April Shaw visits Mitchell Air Force Base in Hempstead, Long Island to inspect camouflage work.

Exhibitions Seventh Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at Riverside Museum, March 15–April 23; Third Annual Exhibition of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors at Wildenstein & Co., June 3–June 26; As We See Them: Exhibition of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, at Portraits, Inc.; Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors at Gallery of Modern Art.



1943 Oil on masonite 19 x 14½ inches 113

1944 Shaw participates in the annual exhibitions of the American Abstract Artists and the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors. At the opening Shaw talks with Ibram Lassaw and Ad Reinhardt. On February 3 Shaw attends the funeral of Piet Mondrian. In April Shaw receives honorary membership in the Mark Twain Society for his literary work. Harry Bull asks Shaw to do an abstract cover inspired by War Bonds for the July issue of Town and Country. In April Bull chooses the most abstract of Shaw’s designs, Marching Band, which pleases Shaw greatly.

Exhibitions Eighth Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at Mortimer Brandt Gallery, March 27–April 8; An Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors at Wildenstein & Co, June 8–July 11.

1945 Shaw has an extensive exhibition schedule, participating in museum invitationals as well as solo and group exhibitions. In January Henry Clifford, a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and A. E. Gallatin visit Shaw to select paintings for the Eight by Eight exhibition of American abstract art. The exhibition features eight works each by Shaw, George L. K. Morris, A. E. Gallatin, Suzy Frelinghuysen, Ilya Bolotowsky, Esphyr Slobodkina, Alice Trumbull Mason, and Ad Reinhardt. The exhibition opens in Philadelphia and travels to the Boston Institute of Modern Art. Also in March Shaw exhibits seven paintings at the Riverside Museum for the American Abstract Artists annual exhibition. Shaw’s Plastic Planes is shown in the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors annual exhibition at Wildenstein & Co. in September. 114

After reviewing about 80 non-abstract works by Shaw in February, Georgette Passedoit selects 26 paintings for Shaw’s first solo exhibition at her gallery to open April 15. The exhibition of mainly figures in abstracted interiors is well received. The Carnegie Institute asks for one of the still lifes for its annual invitational exhibition. Shaw exhibits Checkers at the Whitney Museum’s annual exhibition, and the painting is one of six reproduced in the catalogue of 165 works. In March Shaw learns that the book he illustrated, This Is the Milk That Jack Drank, is selected by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as one of the best books of the year. The book is displayed in the organization’s exhibition The Fifty Books of the Year at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. The entire scope of Shaw’s creative work is the focus of an exhibition at the Washington Irving High School which opens May 17 and includes Shaw’s children’s books, posters, and magazine cover designs, as well as tempera and oil paintings.

Exhibitions Eight by Eight: American Abstract Painting Since 1940, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Institute of Modern Art, Boston, MA (Philadelphia dates are March 7–April 1 and the paintings are returned May 14); Ninth Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at Riverside Museum, March 11–April 15; Portraits of Today by Painters of Today at Mortimer Brandt Gallery; Recent Paintings by Charles Green Shaw at Passedoit Gallery, April 16–April 28; Miscellaneous Show at The Art Gallery, Nantucket; Fifth Anniversary Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures by Members of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors at Wildenstein & Co., September 12–September 29; Painting in the United States at Carnegie Institute, October 11–December 9; Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at Whitney Museum of American Art, November 27–January 10, 1946.


“I feel that today too many painters, in pursuit of theory, lose themselves in an ideational maze to the detriment of plastic and aesthetic values and would do well to bear in mind the words of Goëthe, who said: ‘Paint, artist. Do not talk.’” —Charles Green Shaw



Oil on canvasboard 18½ x 12½ inches 117

1946 In January Gallatin, Morris and Shaw have an exhibition at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut. Shaw continues to be on the membership committee of the AAA and exhibits six paintings at the group’s annual exhibition in March. That same month Shaw leaves Plastic Planes, the painting exhibited at the 1945 annual of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, with Galerie Nierendorf to be auctioned, and it sells well. Another auction record is created for Shaw when a 1935 painting is sold as part of the Walter Chrysler, Jr. Collection at Parke Bernet Auctions in April. Macy’s displays eight of Shaw’s paintings in their modern furnishings department in August, also broadening his market. At the end of June Georgette Passedoit selects about 20 paintings from Shaw’s recent work for a solo exhibition to be held in October. During the exhibition, Town and Country magazine reproduces in color one of Shaw’s paintings, titled Room with a View. Shaw continues to design posters and in March designs two posters for D. Wagstaff. One poster has a New York theme and the other a Dutch girl theme. In September Shaw exhibits a painting in the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors annual exhibition at Wildenstein & Co. At the end of the year Shaw exhibits colored drawings in the Federation exhibition at the Chinese Gallery.

Exhibitions Gallatin, Morris, and Shaw at Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, CT; 10th Annual Exhibition of American Abstract Artists at AmericanBritish Art Center, March 25–April 13; Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by Members of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors at Wildenstein & Co.; Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors at Chinese Gallery in November.


1946 Oil on canvasboard 31 x 22 inches 118

SELECT PUBLIC COLLECTIONS Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC Akron Museum of Art, Akron, OH Alan R. Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA Cantor Art Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO Fort Worth Community Arts Center, Fort Worth, TX Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, NY Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York, NY High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY Le Musée de l’Art Moderne, Paris, France Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY Newark Museum, Newark, NJ National Gallery of the Arts, Washington, D.C. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI Rockefeller University, New York, NY Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT Front cover image: Untitled (Abstract on White) (detail), 1940; Inside front cover: Geometric Construction (detail, greyscale), 1942; Inside back cover: In the Open (detail, greyscale), 1939


Charles Green Shaw in his studio, c. 1945 © Smithsonian Archives of American Art


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