KURT S E L IGM A NN First Message from the Spirit World of the Object
Kurt Seligmann at his retrospective exhibition, Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Arcy Galleries, New York, 1961.
K URT S EL I G M AN N First Message from the Spirit World of the Object Essays by TIMOTHY BAUM STEPHAN E. HAUSER STEPHEN ROBESON MILLER MARTICA SAWIN MEYER SCHAPIRO KURT SELIGMANN
WEINS TEIN GALLERY
Published by Rowland Weinstein and Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco on the occasion of the exhibition Kurt Seligmann: First Message from the Spirit World of the Object May 9–June 13, 2015 Weinstein Gallery 444 Clementina Street San Francisco, CA 94103 www.weinstein.com © 2015 Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco ISBN-10: 0-9790207-3-5 ISBN-13: 978-0-9790207-3-5 Library of Congress Control Number: 2015933877 Publication directed and produced by Kendy Genovese Edited by Melanie Cameron and Kendy Genovese Artwork photography by Nicholas Pishvanov, Seth Matarese, Timothy Schafer Research and additional writing by Melanie Cameron and Kendy Genovese Designed by Linda Corwin, Avantgraphics Exhibition website and additional design by Nicholas Pishvanov Exhibition support directed by Simon Hubbard Text set in Adobe Devanagari and Optima Printed by Calitho, Concord, California Printed in the United States of America Rowland Weinstein and Weinstein Gallery would like to extend our profound gratitude to the following people who helped make this exhibition and book possible: Timothy Baum, James Mayor, Martica Sawin, Stephan E. Hauser, Stephen Robeson Miller, Barbara Singer, Miriam Schapiro Grosof, Janet and Nils Morgan, and the Seligmann Center at Orange County Citizens Foundation, especially Nancy Proyect, Olivia Baldwin, Bonnie Neucall, and Dan Mack. Credits: Kurt Seligmann artwork © 2015 The Seligmann Center at the Orange County Citizens Foundation; used by permission. Photographs on forward page, 8, 10–11, 14, 31, 33, 53, 55, 67, 73, 99, 126, 128–129, 165, 166, 168, 170, 175, 182, courtesy The Seligmann Center at the Orange County Citizens Foundation. Pages 58 and 61 images courtesy Martica Sawin. “Kurt Seligmann: The Early Years,” reprinted from the D’Arcy Galleries catalogue, 1964 © Estate of Meyer Schapiro. “The European Years: 1900 to 1939” © 2015 Stephan E. Hauser. “Seligmann in America” © 2015 Martica Sawin. “Reflections on an Artistic Imagination” © 2015 Stephen Robeson Miller. “The Seligmann Hour” © 2004 Timothy Baum. Cover illustration: detail from Magica, an etching by Kurt Seligmann, 1948, from the collection of Stephen Robeson Miller.
CONTENTS KURT SELIGMANN: THE EARLY YEARS Meyer Schapiro
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939 Stephan E. Hauser
SELIGMANN IN AMERICA Martica Sawin
REFLECTIONS ON AN ARTISTIC IMAGINATION Stephen Robeson Miller
MY MYTHOLOGY Kurt Seligmann
THE KURT SELIGMANN HOUR Timothy Baum
LIST OF WORKS
Kurt Seligmann holding spectacles, c.â&#x20AC;&#x2030;1945.
KURT SELIGMANN– THE EARLY YEARS MEYER SCHAPIRO
urt Seligmann’s art, which is known generally as “surrealist,” passed through several stages, each highly accomplished and personal. One must keep this in mind if one is to see his work as it is and not be misled by labels.
In the 1920s and early ‘30s he painted clearly outlined and modeled
forms in grave tone. The striving for an exact balance, the taste for smoothly finished geometric elements, did not abolish the human image; the titles spoke of man and one may read in certain contrasts and flying motifs an expression of his restless self. A need for both a human presence and its masking or reduction is evident in these works. They are among the best that he produced in a career of continuous growth. Their style and firm execution recall the strictness of an Italian master of the 15th
century, of a painter of profile portraits who weighs the sharply isolated forms of head, headdress, neck and shoulders against a somber ground. There is also in these paintings something of the recent Italian “pittura metafisica”—not its metaphysical allusiveness, however, but the coolness and control, the impersonal generality of the shapes. Later in the ‘30s, he gave his pictures an intricacy and movement which become progressively more intense. Among the gifted Europeans who spent the war years in New York, he stood out through his strange conception of the human figure. It was a fanciful conMeyer Schapiro at Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings struction flashing in the dark; the comexhibition, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), New York, 1960. plicating costume, weapons and instruments possessed a grotesque organic quality like the exposed bones and muscles; the natural and the artificial fused into one hyper-animated whole with sculptured, pointed and coiling forms, sometimes in a compulsive dance. As he devised new parts for these skeletal specters and broadened their stride, they came to resemble, especially in his vigorous drawings and burins, the violent figures of the art of his native Switzerland during the Reformation period. It is important to note that he did not start from this heritage of late medieval art, though he had prized it as a child of Basel. He approached it gradually from a great distance—an attraction induced, one may suppose, by the catastrophes of the late ‘30s and early ‘40s when most of Europe (but not Switzerland) was in flames. The disasters of war and peace were a discouraging, often terrifying background for his personal anxieties. His art then was an authentic reaction to the state of world, which he lived in feeling and imagination. The old art, too, belonged to a period of turmoil, wars and revolts, a moment of decay of the old and of bitter struggles for the new. A sturdy man, with a great joy in work, Seligmann seemed to me in temperament —I saw him often then—altogether unlike the brutal Urs Graf and the insurrection-
ary Niklaus Manuel, with whose demonic art his own has been compared. Seligmann was scholarly, gentle, humorous and elegant, a great lover of books and pictures, with a wide-ranging curiosity; he was known outside the circle of artists as a student of the history of alchemy and magic on which he published a comprehensive book illustrated from his own collection. The encoiled and restless in his art, the wild release, came perhaps from a deep anxiety. But in those years other painters, some less nervous and apprehensive than Kurt Seligmann, L’Alchimie de la Peinture, 1955. Seligmann, stimulating each other, Oil on canvas, 451/8 x 39 inches. produced new work of a similar agitation, with nameless or vaguely nameable forms. Holding to the human figure—imaginary, faceless, but in postures of action—he created a fascinating world of his own with a surprising minuteness of credible detail and a forceful execution, rivaling the old Germanic masters. In these excited bodies of panoplied bone and flesh the parts often suggest the monsters of nature, with outer skeletons and projecting organs of attack and defense. In time, as the tension relaxed, he shaped for his hybrid creatures an open landscape of sky and fantastic rocks. Flying humans, much like insects and birds, found their way to the peaks. His art changed from the earlier deep-toned forms, modeled abruptly by strong light and shadow on a dark ground (sometimes on black glass), to luminous spaces of great depth with figures of an airy lightness of tone. The rocks, plants, clouds, human bodies, weapons and dress, formed of mysterious wrappings or of a crystalline matter with finely irregular striations, all seem to be of the same exotic substance and suggest one another. It is possible that he was led to the idea of a single unifying stuff through his reading of alchemists’ books, and that he found in the enlargement of a fractured section of glass, or in some other curious phenomenon of the studio, the secret model of his brilliantly
KURT SELIGMANN–THE EARLY YEARS
Kurt Seligmann in his studio at the Sugar Loaf farm.
rendered surfaces. They are not tricks of the craft like the textures produced by rubbing and smoking, but studied representations of a privately discovered object. There is in that hermetic semblance an outcome of his conception of art as a radical transformation and search for unity, a transformation and unity that could satisfy, too, his need for masking and metaphor. His odd transposed shapes are figures of painting in the same sense that images of the poet are figures of speech. Convinced of the unredeemable banality of truth-to-appearance in painting, he could not return to the old art in which he continued to admire and study. He required an imaginary world, spacious, tangible, articulated, irregular, and minutely structured, like the visible nature that he loved, and therefore capable of replacing the latter as a support of imagery and as a vehicle of nuanced feeling, whether of torment or joy. 1
1 reprinted from the D’Arcy Galleries catalogue, 1964 © Estate of Meyer Schapiro
LA RONDE (THE ROUND DANCE) (detail, see page 80)
KURT SELIGMANN–THE EARLY YEARS
E S S AY S & P L AT E S
Kurt Seligmann, c.â&#x20AC;&#x2030;1930s.
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939 STEPHAN E. HAUSER
he Swiss Surrealist artist Kurt Leopold Seligmann was born in Basel in 1900 to Gustav and Helene Seligmann, three years after the birth of a sister, Marguerite. Gustav Seligmann had moved to Basel in 1895 from his birthplace, the Borussian town of
Gladbach, and established himself in what was to become a prosperous furniture business. He married Helene Guggenheim (Figs. 1 and 2), a member of one of the oldest families in Lengnau, one of the two towns in Switzerland where Jews were allowed to settle prior to the lifting of the general European restrictions on business. The art collector Peggy Guggenheim belonged to a related branch of the family. Kurt Seligmannâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s earliest surviving artwork is a bookplate showing the profile of a Roman soldier, printed from a linoleum cut when he was thirteen years old (Fig. 3), probably as a school assignment since reading Greek and Roman classics was part of his educational training, and students were required to mark the books that belonged to them. He kept a
Gustav Seligmann, c. 1920–25.
Helene Seligmann-Guggenheim and her children, Kurt and Marguerite. Photographer Louis Frohwein, Basel, c. 1905.
copy of it among his treasured possessions, together with a handwritten note saying that he had cut the linoleum out of a floor at home, an act which so astonished his father that he forgot to reprimand his son. The image of a helmeted head is one that will recur frequently throughout Seligmann’s later work, perhaps as a reflection of the politically belligerent times in which he grew up. It is also reminiscent of the costumed figures of the Basel Carnival which fascinated him from an early age. His first employment at the age of sixteen was in a local printer’s shop where he applied color to pictures printed on glass which were to be projected for educational purposes. He would later benefit from this experience, which lasted from 1917 to 1919, when he began making his own reverse glass paintings. At the same time he took lessons with two painters whose work was typical at that time in Basel: Ernst Buchner who adhered to a traditional style and Eugen Rudolf Ammann who was influenced by modernism. In the period following the First World War, Basel’s art institutions offered
an excellent opportunity to see contemporary art from France and Germany. Since German Expressionism was especially in favor, it comes as no surprise that Seligmann would opt for an expressionistically informed approach in style and subject matter. In 1918 he started to participate in exhibitions at the Basel Kunsthalle, showing at least one painting annually in the Ausstellung der Basler Künstler. In the summer of 1919 his parents reluctantly allowed him to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva. There he made stimulating contacts, including with the young Alberto Giacometti whose portrait he painted (now in the FIG. 3 Kurt Seligmann, Ex Libris Kurt Seligmann, 1912–13, collection of the Museum of Art in Linoleum cut. Kurt and Arlette Seligmann Papers, The Bern). In Geneva he also met Pierre Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Courthion, who became an important Haven, Connecticut. art historian and was a close friend during Seligmann’s Paris years. Kurt’s Beaux-Arts training was suspended when his father became seriously ill and he was forced to return home to take responsibility for the furniture business. This interruption to his artistic development lasted for eight hard, painful years. If he ever had doubts about the vital importance of his becoming an artist he must have finally overcome them, because in 1926 he handed his father a written resignation from all business matters. The immediate catalyst for this action was the Basel Kunstmuseum’s exhibition of the 16th century visionary and artist/mercenary, Urs Graf (Fig. 4), whose influence was to permeate Seligmann’s work for years to come. Gustav Seligmann’s surprising reaction to his son’s resignation was to request the Basel Chamber of Commerce to confirm that Kurt had doubled the turnover in his furniture business and greatly enhanced its reputation. He added a remarkable statement saying that his foremost desire was to see his son reach happiness in his chosen profession,
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
Urs Graf, Pikeman etching, 1514.
in which “through his perseverance he will without any doubt succeed.” Following a year of travel and study in Italy, Seligmann set out by train for Paris, arriving in February 1929. He rented a small room at the Hôtel des Écoles in the rue Delambre and began to frequent the company of other Swiss artists, including Serge Brignoni and Gérard Vuillamy. On the latter’s recommendation he spent a few months at the school of the cubist painter André Lhote. He summed up Lhote’s formalist teaching in the following notes: “1. Do not repeat volumes and shapes in close vicinity; 2. Reduce everything FIG. 5 Max Ernst, La femme 100 tetes, collage novel, 1929. to either straight or curved lines; 3. Always keep the picture well balanced; 4. Never change the code within one painting.” Such were the compositional principles on which he developed his painting. As an antidote to such formulaic teaching he began working from the models at Colarossi’s Académie de la Grande Chaumière, but soon gave that up and found his subjects in the streets, while spending long hours in the Louvre. He read Freud’s lectures on psychoanalysis and collected newspaper clippings with erotic content and settled into a cosmopolitan life, sharing living quarters with his cousin Willy Guggenheim, a painter who used the pseudonym Varlin. Toward the end of his first year in Paris, Seligmann came across a sculpture by Jean Arp at the Galerie Goemans. It impressed him to such an extent that he tried making wood constructions of his own, without success. Five weeks after this unsettling encounter he attended an opening at the recently established Galerie Jeanne Bucher where he discovered Max Ernst’s collage novel, La femme 100 tetes (Fig. 5). He bought a copy in order to study it further and noted in his diary: “Very interesting, but anything more than playfulness? I don’t think so since it’s only reorganization and no real creativity. What moves me though is the blend of fantasy and reality. I see a
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
Left to right: Kurt Seligmann, Serge Brignoni, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Jean Arp, and an unidentified person, at Kunsthalle, Bern, August 1932. Kurt and Arlette Seligmann Papers, The Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
strong desire for a precise description of the natural and the most daringly unnatural . . . . There is something very important in it for me.” He began to think about meeting Ernst and André Breton and hoped that Pierre Courthion, who was working as an art critic in Paris, would provide an introduction. Yet he realized he needed to have something substantial to demonstrate his seriousness as an artist before he dared approach them. His diary notes suggest that he experienced his intellect as an obstruction and that he tried to push himself to a point where reality was no longer his only reference. Painting from memory, keeping only what the brain remembers, inventing new forms called for by the idea—this was the course he outlined for himself. Paris in 1930 was a battleground of contending avant-garde movements. The “Surindépendants,” Joaquín Torres-García’s “Cercle et Carré,” and Theo van Doesburg’s splinter group “Art Concret” all promoted abstraction and opposed the more subjective
Surrealism as proclaimed by poet André Breton in La révolution surréaliste and other publications. Seligmann evidently created in 1930 a surrealist album, as an entry ticket for a meeting with the Surrealists; it is now lost but several artists remembered seeing it. His new work elicited positive feedback from Courthion who wrote favorably of his work in an important art journal, Cahiers de Belgiques, and Jean Arp invited him to visit his studio in Meudon. His paintings began to show a significant change, looking more like compositions with a clarified distinction of figure and ground as in Balancement (p. 39). This allowed him to build a visual vocabulary based on such fundamental considerations as flatness, spatiality, plasticity, figuration, naturalness, deformation, stability, and movement. He began to conceive of painting as a stage on which mental obsessions, color theories, and formal esthetic problems can be worked out simultaneously. By the autumn of 1930 he had arrived at a definitive style of his own and was admitted to the third Salon des Surindépendants with five paintings and a wood construction. Among the artists who responded to his work was the Austrian Wolfgang Paalen, with whom he had much in common and who became a friend for life. Word of his success reached Gustav Seligmann who was able to sign a letter of congratulation to his son just before his death in November 1930. Seligmann accompanied Arp to a private exhibition of works by Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Yves Tanguy, Giorgio di Chirico, Joan Miró, Arp himself, and others. He decided to buy one of Arp’s wood sculptures and eventually acquired the wood relief Poisson et configuration végétale of 1917 (Fig. 7) which remained with him all his life. Arp recruited him for the new organization he had founded, “Abstraction-Création,” (Fig. 6) and reproduced his painting, La création du monde, in the first issue of the Abstraction-Création periodical. Arp also recommended him to the gallery owner Jeanne Bucher, an introduction that resulted in his first solo exhibition (eighteen paintings and ten etchings) in February 1932. Among those at the well-attended opening were the Surrealist poets Paul Éluard and André Breton (Fig. 8) who evidently approached Seligmann with encouraging words. He became an influential member of Abstraction-Création, serving on the Executive Committee, then as secretary of the movement and eventually as the righthand man of the president, Auguste Herbin, until the organization dissolved in 1936. In a community like Abstraction-Création there was to some extent a shared visual vocabulary, so it is natural that Seligmann’s art showed affinities with the contemporaries he most admired—Arp, Ernst, Miró, Tanguy, and Torres-García. Several critics, however, including John Pope Hennessy, on the occasion of the group exhibition
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
Hans (Jean) Arp, Poisson et configuration végétale, 1917. Painted wood relief.
Initial pages from the livre d’or to Seligmann’s solo exhibition at Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris, in 1932. At right: signatures of Wolfgang Paalen, André Breton, László Moholy-Nagy, Alexander Calder, Jean Hélion, Auguste Herbin, and Georges Vantongerloo, amongst others.
Kurt Seligmann, Léda II, 1933. Oil on panel. Private collection.
at the Mayor Gallery in London, described Seligmann as “the one who is the least conformist with Abstraction-Création rules.” Evidently by this time he had made up his mind that the direction he would pursue would be a synthesis of abstract and surrealist modes of expression with Surrealism becoming more pronounced. An early collaborator was the Japanese artist Taro Okamoto who, on his return to Tokyo in 1940, became leader of a new Japanese avant-garde. Seligmann visited his family in Japan during a trip around the world, and the article Seligmann wrote on their collaboration, “Neo-Concretism,” was published in a Japanese newspaper. Following his show with Jeanne Bucher, Seligmann was included with more than twenty works in an exhibition shown in both Basel and Bern, featuring Arp and four of his protégés. Two of the paintings on view were borrowed from private collections and several of the works on view were sold, an indication of his having arrived at the status of a professional artist a brief three years after he had left the business world.
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
Kurt Seligmann, La deuxième main de Nosferatu, 1938, also known as The Superfluous Hand, since 1940. Oil on panel. Gottfried Keller Foundation, on deposit with Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, deposit of Gottfried Keller-Stiftung.
A greater spatial complexity is apparent in Seligmann’s 1933 paintings such as Léda II (Fig. 9) in which planes overlap in a shallow box-like space, bringing the central figure closer to the viewer in an attempt to emotionalize the subject. It happens that in 1933 for the first time the Surrealists were admitted to the Salon des Surindépendants, a sign that the authority of the anti-Surrealism proponents was weakening. In October 1934 ten Basel artists sympathetic to Surrealism asked Seligmann to join their new art alliance called “Gruppe 33.” The following month he officially became a member of the Surrealist group, together with Jacques Hérold, Óscar Domínguez, Richard Oelze and Hans Bellmer. By 1938 when he painted La deuxième main de Nosferatu (Fig. 10), Seligmann’s conversion to Surrealism seems to have been complete. His paintings began to take on a “Helvetic” touch as observed by his friend Pierre Courthion who used his access to art journals to promote Seligmann’s new paintings as a sort of mercenary’s art reminiscent of Urs Graf, but rendered in contemporary terms. He reproduced Seligmann’s Hommage à Urs Graf of 1934 in a short article, “Le sadisme d’Urs Graf,” in the winter 1934/35 issue of Minotaure.
In 1934 the Galleria del Milione in Italy showed Seligmann’s etchings in a solo exhibition, followed by a large showing of his paintings the next year, ten of which were painted on reverse glass (Fig. 11). Learning the technique of this traditional Swiss folk art was a way of reinforcing the Helveticism that he was increasingly cultivating. By this time he had produced two major suites of etchings, Les protubérances cardiaques, 1933–34, with a text by Anatole Jakovsky, and Les vagabondages héraldiques, published in 1934 with an introduction by Pierre Courthion. These etchings not only demonstrate the Helvetic touch but provide the artist with a repertoire of bizarre conglomerate figures fashioned out of oddly assorted parts which he will draw upon in compiling his future images. Jakovsky, a promoter of AbstractionCréation, also published a portfolio of prints by twenty-three artists including Seligmann whose 1933 etching (Fig. 12) clearly shows him reaching out toward a surrealist esthetic while still clinging to the abstractionist values of his “support group.” This print makes understandable Taro Okamoto’s claim that it was Seligmann who did the most to cause a split between the radical abstractionists and the semi-abstractionists that would eventually lead to the dissolution of Abstraction-Création in 1936. In an article for the magazine Sud, published in Marseille, Seligmann sheds light on his position at the time. He explains that he is a “child of Basel” where he grew up with the ideal image of the 15th century mercenary. “It is the culture of my birthplace which my subconscious guides me through
Cover of Il Milione, issue no. 36, February 1935, which served as a catalogue to Seligmann’s exhibition at Galleria del Milione in Milan.
Kurt Seligmann, untitled etching, included in portfolio 24 Essais, also known as Album Jakovsky, with text by Anatole Jakovsky, Paris: G. Orobitz et Cie, 1935.
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
Kurt and Arlette Seligmann on their honeymoon, 1935.
whenever I attempt to realize one of my so-called abstract or imaginative compositions.” Later in the text he distances himself from abstraction, stating that he prefers to see himself as a naturalist whose expressions are filtered by a concept of the world as a whole, deriving from one unique cosmogony. In a sense he is saying that there is no hope for the new without bonds with the old, and he promotes himself as one who knows the means to ensure the future of Surrealism. The mercenary/artist Urs Graf becomes his alter ego and insurance policy in a growingly competitive art world. In addition to adopting a definitive stance in his art at this time, Seligmann also made a major change in his life when, on November 25, 1935, he married Arlette Paraf, niece of the gallery director Georges Wildenstein. Since his father’s will had stipulated that he would come into his inheritance when he married, he could now look forward to a life with comfortable means. In addition there was Arlette’s dowry of 100,000 francs, part of which they used for a half-year trip around the world. During their stop in Japan Taro Okamoto’s father organized a small one-person show in Tokyo. Seligmann seems to have caused a stir among Japanese art students struck by his goal to find a way of expression that would mediate between Surrealism’s literary direction and the abstractionists’ purism which he called “Neo-Concretism.” This event made him the first artist associated with Surrealism to exhibit in Japan prior to the first official International Exhibition of Surrealism held in Tokyo in June, 1937. On their return to Paris in May 1936 the Seligmanns stayed at the Hotel Grosvenor while looking for a new home. It happened that Kay Sage, at the time the Principessa di San Faustino, was at the same hotel and caught sight of Seligmann’s paintings through an open door. The friendship that formed as a consequence led Sage to the other Surrealists and eventually to her marriage to Yves Tanguy. The studio/house that Kurt and Arlette found, in a short impasse called the Villa Seurat, had been designed in an art deco style by André Lurcat, brother of the painter Jean Lurcat. In the top floor skylit studio Seligmann would produce some of his most explicitly surrealist work. In early 1937, at the instigation of Yves Tanguy, Seligmann was admitted, together with Esteban Francés and Patrick Waldberg, to the daily meetings of the Surrealist circle with André Breton at the Café Deux Magots. Soon plans were underway for a major Surrealist exhibition which, probably thanks to Seligmann’s connection by marriage, opened at Georges Wildenstein’s prestigious Galerie des Beaux-Arts in January 1938. The exhibition was installed in three rooms, the first of which was a corridor lined with sixteen mannequins, each dressed by one of the Surrealist artists
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
Kurt Seligmann, Ultrameuble, 1937â&#x20AC;&#x201C;38. Whereabouts unknown. Photograph by Rius.
including Seligmann. The ceiling of the second room had been hung with empty coal sacks by Marcel Duchamp while four beds stood around a pond designed by Wolfgang Paalen. A selection of Seligmann’s earlier paintings, given new Surrealist titles, hung on the walls, along with works by Max Ernst, Joan Miró, and other Surrealist artists. He was also strongly represented in the third gallery by a group of novel objects, including a soup tureen covered with feathers, a teardrop-shaped plaster with four protruding arms, three copies in plaster of a child’s portrait bust by the 19th century sculptor, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, and his notorious Ultrameuble (Fig. 13). The latter was a stool supported by four female legs in high-heeled shoes, a clear reference to Seligmann’s past as the FIG. 14 unwilling manager of a furniture shop. Initially Kurt Seligmann, Les animaux surréalistes, Breton had rejected Ultrameuble because he as published on page 33 of the Dictionnaire found it morally inappropriate, but became recabrégé du Surréalisme, Paris: Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Georges Wildenstein, et José onciled to it as it contributed to the scandalous Corti, 1938. success of the exhibition. One of Seligmann’s most enigmatic works was reproduced in the Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, conceived and published by Breton and Éluard to accompany the exhibition. A collage called Les animaux surréalistes (Fig. 14), it showed a Noah’s ark with images of exotic animals like the praying mantis, a platypus, seahorses, a chameleon and other animals the Surrealists liked to identify with. Although Seligmann had missed the 1936 Surrealist Exhibition of Objects at the Charles Ratton Gallery, he was clearly making up for lost time with his inventive output of provocative objects. An indication of his full acceptance by André Breton came when the latter asked him to be one of twelve artists selected to illustrate a new edition of Les Chants de Maldoror by the Surrealist hero, Isidore Ducasse, also known as le Comte de Lautréamont. Assigned, along with Paalen, the first of the six songs, Seligmann depicted Maldoror (Fig. 15) as a grotesque wolf-man, a self-destructive monster, always in
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
Kurt Seligmann, Maldoror, in Comte de LautrĂŠamont, Oeuvres complĂ¨tes, Paris: G.L.M., 1938.
Kurt Seligmann painting in his studio at the Villa Seurat, c. 1936–37.
pain himself and causing pain and destruction wherever he passed. He merges Surrealist ideology with his own iconographic prototype, the mercenary/artist he borrowed from his Renaissance compatriot Urs Graf. Following the success of the International Exhibition of Surrealism at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Breton and Éluard organized a sequel which was held in Amsterdam in the summer of 1938. Seligmann contributed his Ultrameuble and a new painting, La deuxième main de Nosferatu, clearly based on his experience with Maldoror. Conceptually it is reminiscent of the box-like paintings from around 1933, but now an uncanny and monstrous excrescence with a terrible claw has replaced the more lyrical shapes of the earlier work. Claws are featured in all six songs of Maldoror, the epitome of the Surrealist animal, so the painting can be interpreted as an homage to Surrealist ideals as well as a critical reminder of Seligmann’s own goal to mediate between the literary ambitions of Surrealism and the artist who wishes to express himself in paint. A 1937 exhibition at the Musée du Jeu de Paume drew attention to the subject of nonEuropean sources of Western art, a subject that had been important to the Surrealists
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
Le monde au temps des surréalistes (The World in the Age of the Surrealists), in Variétés, June 1929.
since the 1920s when Breton juxtaposed work by Tanguy with carvings from the Pacific Northwest. A Surrealist map of the world (Fig. 16) was drawn up with the largest amount of space given to areas rich in tribal art, Europe shrunken to a small spot and the United States not visible at all. Along with his colleagues Seligmann acquired tribal art objects, but he was especially focused on the idea of “totemistic substance” embodied in these masks and ritual objects, seeing them as predecessors of the Surrealist technique of superimposition, in which the monster is a symbol of civilized man’s longing for an authentic primordial life condition. Motivated by his quest for totemic substance, Seligmann traveled to British Columbia where he and Arlette spent three months living in primitive conditions in a Tsimshian village. There they recorded, with an anthropological objectivity, the life and legends of the village in photographs and notebooks, and they managed to make a spectacular acquisition: a sixty-foot pole with images of the legend of Gyaedem Skanees, the clan chief who carved the pole before 1850. In order to acquire it, Kurt and Arlette had to become members of the tribe and take tribal names. He recounted this process in an article in the last issue of Minotaure, drawing parallels between the European and Indian myths and the tales which derive from them, and connecting Indian totemism with the European tradition of heraldry. This expedition expanded Seligmann’s iconographic vocabulary which is full of totemistic and heraldic allusions. It underlines the importance to him of his visual findings as a means to
Kurt Seligmann in front of a Gitksan Totem Pole, British Columbia, 1938.
Kurt Seligmann, Un dimanche (Jubivillad), 1938. Oil on panel, 30½ x 25¼ inches.
Three aunts of Kurt Seligmann, posing for the studio photographer Julius Brann, Zürich, c. 1910.
connect avant-garde ambitions with artistic traditions of the past. His friend Wolfgang Paalen was so moved and impressed by Seligmann’s experience that he set out on a journey that followed his footsteps the next summer. On its arrival in Paris the totem of Gyaedem Skanees was installed at the entry of the Musée de l’Homme, a much prized addition to its sparse collection of material from the Pacific Northwest. It was recently moved to the new Musée du Quai Branly. After the death of Arlette Seligmann the small masks inlaid with abalone shell that she had acquired from the Tsimshians were returned to the village at her request. In the same issue of Minotaure as Seligmann’s article, Breton published a report on the latest trends in Surrealism, “Les tendances les plus récents de la peinture surréaliste.” Writing about Surrealism’s later recruits, Roberto Matta, Gordon Onslow Ford, Victor Brauner, Óscar Domínguez and Esteban Francés, Breton gives Seligmann credit for being one of the most promising of the younger Surrealists. He praised the feathered soup tureen and the “famous Ultrameuble” as exemplary because of the forced fusion of unexpected qualities so clearly related to the poetic and the mythological. Breton even recollects the story of Leda and the Swan which shows him to be in accord with Seligmann’s interest in totemistic interpretation as he recounted the origin of his clan in the forced mating of a human princess and a hybrid giant, half man, half animal. Breton’s article is illustrated with Seligmann’s painting, Un
Kurt Seligmann, Rencontre des éléments (Rendez-vous nocturne), 1939. Oil, pen, brush and colored inks on glass. Whereabouts unknown.
dimanche (Jubivillad) (Fig. 17) that is clearly based on a photograph of his aunts (Fig. 18) in which he had seen these aunts as monstrous hybrids, half human, half furniture, now haunting ghosts of the past. In one of the last paintings he made in Europe, Rencontre des éléments (Fig. 19), later repeated in several versions, Seligmann turns Watteau’s dreamworld The Embarkation for Cythera into the nightmare of an endless journey, a forecast of the journey he and Arlette were to soon make as they embarked for the United States to attend a New York exhibition of his paintings, a journey ultimately to a new home.
THE EUROPEAN YEARS: 1900 TO 1939
NE VOUS EN DÉPLAISE (LÉDA I) 1929 Oil on panel 36¼ x 285/8 inches
BALANCEMENT 1932/1953 Oil on panel
28½ x 23½ inches
UN DIMANCHE (JUBIVILLAD) 1938 Oil on panel 30½ x 25¼ inches
LA TURQUE 1932 Oil on panel 24 x 19Â¼ inches
LE COMBAT (DE TANCRÈDE ET DE CLORINDE) 1934 Oil on panel 70¾ x 45¼ inches
AUTOMNE TROMPETTE DE FOURRURE (LE CARILLON MUET) aka TRUMPET OF FUR & KITE 1938 Oil on glass 20Â¼ x 161/8 inches
LE RENCONTRE DES ÉLÉMENTS c. 1940 Oil on glass 28 x 34¼ inches
SELIGMANN IN AMERICA BY MARTICA SAWIN
he hamlet of Sugar Loaf, New York, named for the shape of a small nearby mountain, is located fifty miles north of Manhattan near the Ramapo foothills. At the end of the Depression it was nothing more than a rural backwater with a short, virtually
deserted main street and a few outlying farms for sale at rock bottom prices. Hardly a likely locale for two sophisticated Europeans from affluent and cultured backgrounds to choose as a refuge, yet Kurt and Arlette Seligmann chose to settle there in a small 19th century farmhouse nestled in a hollow near the village. On the walls of the low-ceilinged rooms they hung artworks given to them by Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and Jean Hélion, and on the mantle in the parlor they displayed masks inlaid with abalone shell acquired when they lived in a Tsimshian Indian village; nearby was an Arp sculpture and a wooden head bought during a Paris flea market excursion with André Breton. The barn was turned into a studio where Kurt’s etching press was installed. Although they kept their studio apartment in the city and Seligmann participated in many New York exhibitions,
Kurt L. Seligmann, New York, 1946. Photograph by Irving Penn. Copyright Â© The Irving Penn Foundation. TITLE
Cover image from the catalogue for Seligmannâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exhibition at Nierendorf Gallery in New York, 1941.
including seven solo shows, Sugar Loaf remained their home until their deaths, Kurt in 1962 and Arlette thirty years later. Both are buried among the worn sandstone 19th century grave markers in the small family plot at the farm. Eight days after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 had plunged the European continent into war, Kurt Seligmann and his wife Arlette were on board a trans-Atlantic ship bound for New York. Ostensibly the purpose of the trip was to attend an exhibition of his paintings at the gallery Berlin dealer Karl Nierendorf had transplanted to New York. Scheduling the exhibition may have been a Nierendorf stratagem for getting the Seligmanns out of Europe; according to Arlette they left their studio/house in the impasse Villa Seurat unprepared for a long absence. However, it appears that Seligmann had anticipated the outbreak of war when in August he drove south with a carload of his large paintings on glass, seeking safe storage on the estate of Arlette’s uncle, art dealer Georges Wildenstein, only to find that the available space had already been filled with Wildenstein holdings. Apprehensive by nature, Seligmann had forebodings of an inevitable war as early as 1932 when he put together a scrap book of clippings from a glossy newsmagazine, juxtaposing photographs of military officers reviewing troops and the hedonistic life on the Riviera. He called it “bourrage de crâne” (mendacious propaganda) and inserted a sheet of paper on which he had written “Systematic distribution of poison. Worse than before the war. And the same things exist. How soon will the next war come? for it surely will.” Jean Hélion, a fellow member of Abstraction-Création in the early 1930s, remembered Seligmann showing him a small anti-war book he had written, perhaps based on this scrapbook. Seligmann’s pessimistic foreboding permeated Specters 1939 A.D.—13 Variations on a macabre theme, the title of his show that opened on September 27 at New York’s Nierendorf Gallery. That the works on view were seen as premonitions of violent clashes is evident from the response of Jerold Lane, the reviewer for Art News who wrote that the exhibition “presented the horrors of war” and that the artist was “painting with deadly seriousness themes which haunt the conscious mind of anyone alive today.”1 In Lane’s opinion the themes of apprehensiveness and violence meant that the artist was not a surrealist because he was dealing with present realities. Yet Seligmann described one of the paintings on glass in the show, Rendezvous of the Elements, as illustrating a childhood dream, an indication that he shared the general Surrealist interest in dreams and their interpretation.2 In other words, there are multiple levels
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Kurt Seligmann, Rendezvous of the Elements, 1940. Oil, pen, brush and colored inks on glass.
on which to interpret these enigmatic paintings, and unraveling the encoded meanings yields an awareness of an ironic multilayered symbolism, with references to classical myths, medieval alchemy, Swiss mannerist engravings and modern mechanical devices. From a stylistic point of view his paintings and prints were disconcertingly eclectic as they bridged the gothic and the contemporary, and uninhibitedly juxtaposed contradictory elements. By the time the show at the Nierendorf Gallery ended, it was clear that a return to France was unthinkable, and the Seligmanns moved from the Plaza Hotel annex to a spacious studio on 40th Street near Fifth Avenue which would be their New York base for the next twenty years. Seligmann soon found himself acting as a Surrealist outpost, providing a U.S. link for his colleagues in Europe as they became aware of impending
danger in Occupied France, whether they were Jewish or German nationals living abroad, or artists who had been included in Hitler’s Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition. He received frequent communications from those seeking help with visas, financial support, or letters of reference, and he took an active role in helping to provide affidavits to the Emergency Rescue Committee for fellow Surrealists anxious to get out of Europe, including André Masson and the group’s poet spokesman André Breton. “I am convinced that the future of Surrealism is where you are,” Breton wrote to Seligmann from Vichy, France in August 1940, asking him to help Yves Tanguy and Kurt Seligmann at Tanguy and secure an invitation for a series of lectures Kay Sage’s Town Farm, Woodbury, Connecticut, from an important cultural organization c. 1950. so that he might obtain an exit visa. In November Seligmann received a letter from Austrian Surrealist Wolfgang Paalen who was living in Mexico where, with the help of Mexican artist César Moro, he was organizing a Surrealist exhibition at the Galería de Arte Mexicano. Paalen’s list of inclusions had been provided by André Breton who was still in uniform in France as part of a medical staff attached to a pilot training school near Poitiers. In the letter Paalen sketched the two Seligmann paintings he wanted to include, asking for the titles, and added that he had given their address to Tanguy who had just arrived in New York and had not known that the Seligmanns were there.3 A regrouping of the Paris Surrealists began that fall with the arrival of Matta, Tanguy, and Kay Sage (whose gravitation toward surrealism had started in 1936 with a chance glimpse of Seligmann’s paintings through the doorway of a Paris hotel room) and was augmented in the spring by British Surrealists Gordon Onslow Ford and Stanley William Hayter. With the new arrivals came exhibitions of their work in New York galleries, including those of Julien Levy, who had been showing Surrealist art since 1933, Curt Valentine, a transplant from Berlin and already Masson’s dealer, and Pierre Matisse, an old school-
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Cover design by Seligmann for View magazine, No. 1, Series iii, 1943.
Robert Motherwell, Figure with Mandolin, etching, 1940 © Dedalus Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
mate of Tanguy. Some of the émigrés were given exhibitions at the New School for Social Research where Stanley William Hayter had established a print workshop he called Atelier 17 after his former Paris address. Publications featuring Surrealism began to appear, spearheaded by James Laughlin’s New Directions in Prose and Poetry 1940 Annual, incorporating a “Surrealist Anthology” which included Seligmann’s essay on the occult, “Terrestrial Sun.” Poet Charles Henri Ford who had met Seligmann in Paris listed him as one of the sponsors of View, his new “poetry paper,” and commissioned him to do a cover as well as several short articles on magic. Fluent in English and having been trained to run his father’s business, Seligmann soon made a place for himself in his new surroundings. Connections to the worlds of music and dance brought him commissions for costumes and sets, the first being Hanya Holm’s The Golden Fleece in 1941, followed in 1946 by The Four Temperaments for Balanchine. The Nierendorf Gallery gave him a second show in 1941 and published editions of several of his etchings. A show of his drawings and etchings was held at the New School and during 1941–42 his paintings were shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Institute of Modern Art, the Addison Gallery, and the Chicago Art Institute. During 1940–41 he was a member of the faculty at Briarcliff College. Shortly after arrival, the Seligmanns met the
An original costume for The Four Temperaments, designed by Seligmann, 1946.
noted art historian and Columbia University professor Meyer Schapiro and his wife Lillian who became close friends. At the suggestion of Lillian’s brother, Dr. Joseph Milgrim, they looked for a country home near the Milgrims and bought the Sugar Loaf farm. To help their finances Schapiro sent one of his graduate students who was considering becoming an artist to Seligmann for private lessons. In later years the student in question, Robert Motherwell, acknowledged Seligmann mainly as his entrée to the Surrealist circle, but at least one etching survives bearing the imprint of his teacher’s heraldic style.
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Left to right: Frida Kahlo, Arlette Seligmann, Kurt Seligmann, and an unidentified person, in Mexico, 1943.
The Seligmanns planned a summer trip to Mexico in 1941 with Motherwell and another private pupil, Barbara Reis, but at the last minute they had to cancel and Matta and his wife Anne were asked to go instead. Not only did Motherwell work under Mattaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s influence that summer, but thanks to an introduction from Seligmann he stayed on in Mexico to study with Wolfgang Paalen, forming a relationship that would be consequential for both artists. In 1943 the Seligmanns were able to make their postponed trip to Mexico when he was invited by the Minister of Education to have an exhibition at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. In Mexico they spent time with his old friend Wolfgang Paalen and were reunited with Frida Kahlo who they had known earlier in Paris. In Seligmannâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 1941 show at Nierendorf a mystifying new configuration appeared. Cyclonic forms that seemed to be made up of tightly twisted fabric hovered in space or spiraled up from the ground. Using a technique that he had learned in Paris in 1930 from a Basel colleague, Hans Rudolf Schiess, Seligmann had created a new phenomenon. Fractured glass was photographed or projected, and the image was precisely traced on paper or canvas, yielding an enigmatic shape that could be seen as a disembodied
CAVE OF THE ECHOES c. 1941–43 Mixed media collage 25 x 19 inches
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Kurt Seligmann, Melusine and the Great Transparents, 1943. Oil on canvas, 29¼ x 24 inches. Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection, 1981.823, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Kurt Seligmann, Alaska, 1944. Oil on board, 30 x 26 inches.
presence or a spiraling gust of wind. This technique was Seligmann’s personal variation on the automatist process adopted by the Surrealists to tap into the unconscious. Convinced that gestural automatism resulted in mechanical repetition, he chose to cultivate the image arrived at purely by accident. Because he felt that automatism “led the creative forces always through the same channels, thus curbing the immense flight of the imagination,” he favored what he called “the a priori element.” 4 Asked for a statement in connection with the show European Artists Teaching in America at Andover’s Addison Gallery, he wrote: “They are landscapes, but they are not static. I call them cyclonic landscapes.” The following year when he had an exhibition at the Durlacher Gallery he wrote a description of Memnon and the Butterflies for the director, Kirk Askew: “This is an interpretation of the southwestern American landscape. They are psychological landscapes with anthropomorphic elements; living beings seem to detach themselves from tortuous geological formations. A world in formation— not the heroic landscapes of prehistory, but rather a lyrical one.” 5 His encounter with the awesome scale and visible geological history of the Grand Canyon and the fantastic rock formations thrusting out of the desert
landscape of the Southwest prompted Seligmann to consider the potent forces that shaped these wonders. Exhilarated by the contrast between America’s “unsettled land and virgin nature” and the European landscape “where civilizations lie buried under every acre,” he attempted to express the vast and unpredictably turbulent nature of the New World. Further clarification of the cyclonic forms came in his response to Sidney Janis’s request for a statement to accompany a drawing in Janis’s book, Abstract and Surrealist Painting in America, for which Seligmann sent the following: “The Seligmann drawing for “Magic Evening” announcement. drawing in Departure is not autoInk on paper, c. 1942. matic in the usual sense. It derives from an a priori image. There are three elements, man, animal, earth. The forms are held in suspension by contrary currents like a vanishing column of smoke on a calm, clear day.” 6 At the same time that Seligmann was developing the cyclonic paintings, André Breton was writing his “Prolegomena to the Third Manifesto of Surrealism–or else” in which he proposed a new myth featuring gigantic hovering invisible beings he called the Great Transparents.7 It is likely that the swirling forms in Melusine and the Great Transparents were intended to represent Breton’s transparent beings. Melusine was reproduced in the April 15 issue of Art News whose reviewer found a change toward “non-representational forms of much greater interest” and considered “his vocabulary as original as that of any Surrealist now in America.” 8 Although Seligmann drew many of his titles from classical mythology, it is likely that these cyclonic paintings also made reference to contemporary events. Set in motion by an invisible force, freed from the laws of gravity, precariously poised, these whirlwind shapes project a sense of menacing unpredictable forces.
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Farewell party for Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, New York, 1946. Left to right: Roberto Matta, Arlette Seligmann, Max Ernst, Nina Lebel, Elena Calas, unidentified man, Frederick Kiesler, unidentified woman, Teeny Matisse, Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry, and Kurt Seligmann.
As the circle of Surrealist refugees was augmented by the arrivals of Breton, Masson, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and others, group activities such as exhibitions and publications proliferated. Ten artists contributed etchings or original works on paper to a portfolio which was sold to help finance a new journal VVV, edited by Breton and Ernst. 9 The etchings were printed on the press in Seligmann’s barn/ studio; according to Meyer Schapiro, the plates produced by the artists who had gathered there were buried in the debris when a cyclone leveled the barn a few years later. Among the artist visitors to the Sugar Loaf farm was Duchamp who fired five shots at the stone foundation wall of an adjacent barn, then photographed it and had it printed with the five bullet holes punched out for the cover of the catalogue accompanying the notorious First Papers of Surrealism exhibition staged by the émigrés in October, 1942. For the first issue of VVV (Spring 1942) Seligmann wrote “The Evil Eye,” in
which he described the widespread belief in the evil eye as a producer of poisonous emanations and its use on protective amulets. To VVV 2/3 he contributed a satirical “Surrealist Bibliography,” and an essay, “Prognostication by Paracelsus.” The latter was a 17th century Swiss theologian and alchemist with medical training, known for his unconventional treatment practices as well as his writings on alchemy and magic which were of special interest to Seligmann who was in the process of accumulating a collection of rare books on magic. 10 At the same time he was also a frequent contributor to View which continued its focus on Surrealism until 1946. He exhibited in First Papers of Surrealism and at Art of This Century, the gallery started by heiress Peggy Guggenheim who showed the work of the Surrealists and introduced younger Americans such as Motherwell and Jackson Pollock. Despite Seligmann’s steadfast involvement in the activities of his fellow Surrealist refugees, he eventually earned the disapproval of André Breton who expelled him from the Surrealist group over a disagreement in the interpretation of Tarot cards. Undeterred, (Masson had also just been expelled for a trivial offense) Seligmann continued to paint and exhibit in prestigious exhibitions while his painting grew in proficiency and complexity. In the later 1940s he adopted the device of painting floating platforms under his cavorting personages. As seen in Sorceresse, 1948 (pp. 96–97) or Cybele III, 1949 (p. 95), these planes tilt into space at varying angles, creating an effect of multiple perspectives. A likely inspiration for this change may have been the multi-directional floating planes that Matta had introduced a few years earlier to create vast architectural settings for the aggressive tubular figures in his large canvases of the mid-and later 1940s. However, while these Matta paintings were based on themes of violence, Seligmann’s work of the later 1940s deals with theatrically attired skeletal figures or conglomerations of shapes in stage-like settings painted in a generally harmonious palette. The shift from open landscapes to the confined settings may have been inspired by the experience of working on sets and costumes for The Four Temperaments ballet in 1946 or his collaboration with John Meyers on a puppet show for the Theatre Ubu. The latter was “At Noon Upon Two,” a skit by Charles Henri Ford with music by Ned Rorem, presented on May 26, 1947. Seligmann not only designed but also fabricated some of the puppets, perhaps remembering those made by his father for his children’s entertainment. Among the childhood memories that appealed to his sense of the theatrical were the Basel funeral processions with the “infernal sound of the large drums,
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The front and back covers of the catalogue accompanying the First Papers of Surrealism exhibition in October, 1942.
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flags, plumes, and halberds,” and the annual celebration of Carnival when the inhabitants of the usually reserved city would go berserk and the streets would swarm night and day with masked, extravagantly costumed throngs. Reviewing these new paintings in his 1948 Durlacher exhibition, Thomas Hess wrote: “An alchemist/magician with his feet planted sturdily on the ground, a thoroughly trained technician with his thoughts way up in the air—such are the seeming contradictions in Seligmann’s latest exhibition. . . and they have made him one of the most finished and creative artists of his generation.” 11 While most of their artist colleagues returned to France after the war ended, the Seligmanns remained in the United States and became American citizens, although they kept their house in the Villa Seurat, renting it to Paalen, Isamu Noguchi, and other artist friends. They traveled to France in 1949 for his exhibition at the Maeght Gallery which had been host to the large 1947 exhibition that marked the return of Surrealism to Europe. Maeght published a special number of Derrière le Miroir dedicated to Seligmann, with essays by his old friend Pierre Courthion, as well as Georges Duthuit, Pierre Mabille, Jean Cassou and Charles Duits. In Paris they saw many friends and made some necessary repairs to their Villa Seurat house, but they were not sorry to return to the Sugar Loaf farm. Back in the United States he wrote contentedly to Courthion: “We are making preparations for winter—storing potatoes and apples, raking leaves, putting up storm windows—we are true compagnards— we like this life.” This rural idyll was rudely interrupted the following year when a cyclone, unheard of in that region, swept through the farm. In a letter to Arlette’s sister, Seligmann wrote: “It lasted twenty-four hours with winds between 100 and 150 miles an hour. There was nothing left of the barn, etching studio, and woodshed. The house was damaged and trees blown down. The bulldozer is coming tomorrow.” During the years of his wartime exile Seligmann continued to correspond with rare book dealers in order to add to his important collection of books on magic. His motivation has been attributed to a desire to maintain contact with centuries of tradition, both the European folk tradition of magic belief and the fine printing associated with his Swiss homeland. The subject had both an intellectual and an emotional appeal for him. In a letter to an unknown recipient explaining the attraction of magic he quoted Gaston Bachelard’s statement that magical beliefs still lurk behind scientific thinking and he referred to Piaget’s conviction that magic was still deeply rooted in the human psyche. “I am an artist and I think as a painter. This is the true reason why
Photograph of a “Magic Evening” (“Soirée Seligmann”) in Kurt Seligmann’s New York studio, 1948. Kurt Seligmann and Enrico Donati in a magic circle. Photograph by Bernard Hoffman.
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The Mirror of Magic, by Kurt Seligmann, published in 1948.
magic attracts me—the completeness of the magical world. For an artwork should as well be complete in itself. There should be a manifoldness of forms, a variety held together by a coordinating law similar to the magical world law spoken of in clear words by the Babylonians, the Egyptian magis and the Greek metaphysicists. . . the great philosophers have not been able to break through the magic circle. . . . The great axiom of magic: all is all and all is one has haunted our civilized west and the near east for thousands of years.” 12 The connection Seligmann made between his art and his interest in magic was also spelled out in “Magic Circles,” an article published in View in which he stated: “The artist is subjected to occult forces just as a medium experiences a trance. . . only in a state of trance, in the moment when the world soul has entered into the artist, will he be able to create those works which are in harmony with the universe and its secret laws.” 13 Of interest in the same essay is a chart of magic signs attributed to Cornelius Agrippa. On one half of the chart are the signs for “good spirits” which are nonfigurative, and on the opposite side are more pictorial signs, symbols for evil spirits. The division coincides with the increasing pro-abstract, anti-figurative attitude on the part of mid-century artists and critics. This distinction was shortly over-simplified into a “progressive/regressive” formula so that by the 1950s paintings were often judged according to which side of the figurative/non-figurative divide they fell on, rather than their intrinsic qualities. In 1948 Seligmann’s erudition yielded substantial results in the form of a 500-page book, The Mirror of Magic, published under the imprint of Pantheon, a distinguished press, founded in 1942 by German émigrés Helen and Kurt Wolff. Later published with the title History of Magic, it was translated into Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German and has gone through many printings. He did not stop with the printed page, but became a practitioner, calling himself “Master of the Abyss” when he entertained invited guests at magic evenings in his 40th Street studio. Although he had a functioning grasp of practical realities, on his more subjective side Seligmann was able to see in magic a metaphor for existence. “If all is one, there cannot be a separation between man, the stars, and the invisible. There cannot be anything contrary to the world’s harmony.” 14 Perhaps this is why the imagery in the paintings of his last decade conforms to a more harmonious ideal, with references to vegetal and insect forms, the elements, harvesting, and cosmic expanse. While he did not abandon his complex, often convoluted images, his later paintings to some degree
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Left: Still from Thomas Bouchard’s film The Birth of a Painting, showing Kurt’s painting Magnetic Mountain; Right: Announcement of the premiere of the film.
reflect the winds of artistic change as forms dissolved into loose conglomerations of fluttering ribbons, still drawn with exacting precision. Even when his images derive from natural phenomena and are precisely delineated as in Metamorphosis, 1958 (p. 139), there is a sense of ambiguity to the slowly unfurling forms. In a work like Polyphemus (p. 155) of 1958 where solid form is consumed in writhing, swirling linear movement covering most of the canvas surface, one has the impression that he is responding in his own way to the ascendancy of Abstract Expressionism while retaining the semblance of a reference to nature. During the 1950s, that decade of “American painting’s triumph,” Seligmann continued to exhibit, but public attention had shifted from the legacy of European modernism toward the latest homegrown developments. At the request of Taro Okamoto who he had known in Paris in the 1930s, Seligmann selected nine contemporary American painters for an exhibition in Japan. His choice of artists covered a spectrum from Willem de Kooning and Mark Tobey to Saul Steinberg, a selection reflecting his non-partisan view. The Birth of a Painting, a film of Seligmann at work in his studio, was
made by Thomas Bouchard in 1950 and, after a premiere at New York University, was shown for an extended period at the Museum of Modern Art. In the early 1950s he gave a series of lectures on modern art at the New School, and in 1954 he was appointed to the faculty of Brooklyn College. He made a trip to Paris in 1956 in connection with a French edition of The Mirror of Magic and attended to repairs for the house in the Villa Seurat which had been rented to Wolfgang Paalen from 1952 until the latter returned to Mexico in late 1954. Back in the United States Seligmann suffered a heart attack, but he was at his easel a month later and wrote to Harvey Arnason who was writing a book on modern art: “I am a romanticist. My world is that of dreams, fantasies, apparitions. . . . It is the strange, the unheard of, the exquisite which attracts me. . . for nothing in the world would I forgo my day and night dreams.” 15 The period 1958–59 appears to have been a time of intensified activity, during which his figures were no longer assemblages of extraneous parts, rather they look more like x-ray images of a congealed mass of organs, lymph nodes and arteries, possibly as a result of his recent medical experience. See, for example, Knight (Man in the Castle II), 1958 (p. 141). The most powerful works of this post-heart attack period are the menacing “Envelopment” paintings, Mountain Spirit (pullout) and Envelopment II (Man in the Castle I) (p. 131) in which the suggestion of a figure partially materializes out of turbulent linear movement. Mountain Spirit or Rubezahl, according to a German folktale, haunts mountain travelers. Moonscape, from 1959 (p. 153), the year that Sputnik was launched, seems to be the embodiment of his belief that “all is one, [that] there cannot be a separation between man, the stars, and the invisible.” In these late paintings Seligmann achieves a resolution of opposites: applying paint with meticulous precision, he imbues the image with expressionistic force; despite the clear articulation of detail, there is a sense of overall dissolving. Although the heart attack was not severe, Seligmann remained apprehensive and always carried nitroglycerin pills in case of a recurrence. Reluctant to drive a car, he resigned from his position at Brooklyn College in 1959, and the following year he gave up the apartment in New York City. In tune with the farm’s natural surroundings, aware of nature’s minute changes as he and Arlette tended their flower and vegetable gardens, Seligmann painted with a focus on close-up details from nature, as in The Pod, 1959 (p. 135). In contrast with the tightly packed “Envelopment” paintings, in 1961 his palette lightened, and the the figures are less congealed and seem to merge harmoniously with their atmospheric backgrounds.
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On January 2, 1962 Seligmann, as was his routine, built a fire in the stove, set two places at the breakfast table, and, taking his shotgun, went out the kitchen door to shoot the rats who were eating the birdseed that overflowed from the feeder. Arlette was still asleep. It was an icy morning. A neighbor coming to pick him up to drive into town came upon his body lying on the snow.
1 J.L. (Jerold Lane), “Specters of 1939,” Art News 38:1 (October 7, 1939), p. 9. 2 A copy of Rendezvous of the Elements in oil was exhibited in 1943 at the Durlacher Gallery at which time Seligmann wrote out the following explanation for the gallery director, Kirk Askew: “. . . a dream I had as a child: my mother and another woman attempting to sail across the sea on a small raft which could not easily carry us three. Frightened, my mother’s companion held onto a strange being emerging from the water, and a warning voice calling me louder and louder flies through the air, hits my ear finally like thunder and awakens me. This dream of earth, water, and air was apparently a marking stone in my psychological development. Plastically I wished to express these forms as groups of forms, which are hostile and hold together only through imaginary lines, curves and angles, forming the scheme of the composition.” Carbon copy of typewritten notes sent to Kirk Askew, Kurt Seligmann papers at the Beinecke Library, Yale University. 3 Letter dated Nov. 1, 1939, Kurt Seligmann papers, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 4 See “It’s Easy to Criticize,” View 2, n.2, May 1942, p. 109. 5 Carbon copy of typewritten notes sent to Kirk Askew, Kurt Seligmann papers at the Beinecke Library, Yale University. 6 Sidney Janis, Abstract and Surrealist Painting in America, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1944, p. 144. 7 André Breton, “Prolegomena to the Third Manifesto of Surrealism—or else,” VVV no. 1 (Spring 1942). 8 Art News, April 1942. 9 The etchings were by Calder, Carrington, Chagall, Ernst, Masson, Seligmann, and Tanguy. Original
works on paper were contributed by Breton, Hare, Matta, and Motherwell.
VVV 2-3, March 1943, pp. 96-103.
11 Thomas Hess, Art News, September, 1948. 12 View, February/March 1942, p. 3. 13 Handwritten draft, “letter on
magic,” addressed “Dear friend,” Kurt and Arlette Seligmann Papers, The Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, ZAMS 542. 15 Letter to Harvey Arnason, May 16, 1968. Kurt Seligmann papers, Beinecke Library, Yale University.
14 Ibid, p. 5.
Kurt and Arlette Seligmann at their Sugar Loaf farm, c.â&#x20AC;&#x2030;1950s.
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SABBATH PHANTOMS (MYTHOMANIA) c. 1945 Oil on canvas 36¾ x 51 inches
LEPORELLO 1946 Oil on canvas 35 x 23 inches Collection of the Seligmann Center at the Orange County Citizens Foundation
AMPHITRITE 1946 Oil on canvas 24 x 32 inches Collection of the Seligmann Center at the Orange County Citizens Foundation
LA RONDE (THE ROUND DANCE) 1940â&#x20AC;&#x201C;41 Oil on paperboard 54 x 66 inches Bauer Collection
ISIS 1944 Oil on canvas 65 x 30 inches
ALASKA 1944 Oil on board 30 x 26 inches
HERALDIC APPARITION 1947 Oil on canvas 48 x 54 inches
THE INTRUDER 1946 Oil on canvas 26 x 30 inches
VANITY OF THE ANCESTORS 1940â&#x20AC;&#x201C;43 Oil on panel 49 x 59 inches
NOCTAMBULATION 1942 Oil on panel 44 x 33 inches
CYBELE III 1949 Oil on canvas 39Â¼ x 26 inches
SORCERESSE 1948 Oil on canvas 30 x 40 inches
REFLECTIONS ON AN ARTISTIC IMAGINATION STEPHEN ROBESON MILLER
ncredible as it may seem, the last time a gallery or museum in the United States produced a comprehensive catalogue to accompany an exhibition of Kurt Seligmann’s work was more than fifty years ago, in 1961. 1 For that occasion, the D’Arcy Galleries
at 1091 Madison Avenue, New York City, published a catalogue containing a checklist of the forty-two exhibited works (two objects, two works on paper, and thirty-eight oil paintings), seventeen black and white illustrations, and a reprint of a 1946 statement by the artist. Additionally, there was a collection of essays and accolades, some also reprinted from earlier sources, by twelve leading critics, museum curators and art historians (James Johnson Sweeney, the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Katherine Kuh, curator of European Art and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago; Murdock Pemberton, art critic for The New Yorker magazine; Edwin Alden Jewell, art critic for The New York Times; Surrealist poets Nicolas Calas and Benjamin Péret;
Kurt Seligmann in his studio, c.â&#x20AC;&#x2030;1950s.
Seligmann, Alexandre Iolas Gallery, New York, 1953.
Kurt Seligmann, D’Arcy Galleries, New York, 1961.
French Musée d’Art Moderne director, Jean Cassou; Italian critic Gualtieri di San Lazzaro; Franco-Romanian critic Anatole Jakovsky; and American critics Aline B. Saarinen, Parker Tyler and Florence Stol) providing evidence of the high esteem with which the art world held the fantastic and individualistic work of this Surrealist artist. Particularly welcome and revealing was the inclusion of a statement the artist provided the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1946 for an exhibition titled Eleven Europeans in America. In it, he noted that after briefly experimenting with “a series of geological or ‘cyclonic’ scenes” to which he attributed the influence of the unspoiled nature of the American landscape, especially the Far West, his subject matter had returned “to the prevailing interest of my work, which is man.” 2 The fact that, by his own admission, Seligmann felt so comfortable with figurative imagery speaks volumes, for it provides insight into the kinds of art and experiences which made an indelible impression on him in youth and greatly influenced the appearance of his art. Seeing Seligmann’s mature paintings, one is immediately struck not only by the fantastic anthropomorphic figures he frequently depicted, but also by the style in which they are executed. Nothing is ever static. Indeed, the movement of fluttering drapery and constant action in such paintings as Le combat (de Tancrède et de Clorinde) (1934) (p. 45),
Vanity of the Ancestors (1940–43) (p. 91), and Heraldic Apparition (1947) (pp. 86–87), was characteristic and noted frequently in the essays of the 1961 D’Arcy Galleries exhibition: Jean Cassou referred to Seligmann’s figures as “truly baroque” with the “swirling” and “undulating” folds of cloth producing “elegant” results; James Johnson Sweeney characterized this turbulent quality as a “violence of expression” and “an urgency and fever that brings his work closer to expressionism than to classical repose.” At the same time, many of the writers quoted made much of Seligmann’s sixteenth century Swiss antecedents: the “energy” of Urs Graf and Nicolas Manuel Deutsch, whose “vigorous” drawings (in the case of Graf) and paintings (in the case of Manuel) depicted scenes of combat and medieval dragons, which find an “echo” in Seligmann’s jousting knights and dances macabres. Murdock Pemberton related that “Seligmann reports being especially enraptured by the inner rhythm of battle scenes” of the early Italian Renaissance master Paolo Uccello, and indeed one can find affinities between the “vitality” of Seligmann’s subjects and the work of earlier, particularly Germanic, artists whose work he admired. Yet Seligmann had other close connections to art and experiences which made a lasting impression on his imagination. It so happens that the first work of art one saw hanging in the front hall of his and Arlette’s farmhouse in the hamlet of Sugar Loaf, Orange County, New York, was an engraved portrait from the early eighteenth century of a sumptuously bewigged nobleman named Caspar Christian Seligmann (16521711). Kurt had brought the engraving from his parents’ house in Basel, where it was also prominently displayed. The subject’s name and exalted credentials are provided in Latin beneath the image: Caspar was the “Intimate Advisor” to the King of Poland and the Elector of Saxony. As such his portrait stands as a characteristic example of the Court Portrait “type” established by the French Baroque artist Hyacinthe Rigaud in 1701 with his famous Portrait of Louis XIV. The purpose of such an image was less to depict an individual personality than to affirm the rank of the sitter who always belonged to the Royal Court. One can easily imagine Seligmann arriving in Paris in 1929 from Switzerland and, with his strong intellectual curiosity, visiting the Louvre and closely studying Rigaud’s Louis XIV portrait, particularly as he would have recognized its stylistic affinity to the engraving of his namesake. In Caspar’s portrait, the billowing robes blow upwards, the mass of curls of his voluminous wig frame his flaccid face, and his right hand beckons us to the view through the window of his domain, not unlike the Louis XIV portrait. Visible at lower left is a heraldic escutcheon, with the all-important helmet facing forward, an emblem of the subject’s noble status. More cascading folds
REFLECTIONS ON AN ARTISTIC IMAGINATION
Engraved portrait of Casper Christian Seligmann (1652â&#x20AC;&#x201C;1711) by Martin Bernigeroth, collection of the Seligmann Center at the Orange County Citizens Foundation, Sugar Loaf, New York.
of drapery frame Caspar’s head, further embellishing the overall stylistic character of agitated movement and sumptuousness. If ever the portrayal of a believed ancestor could evoke the turbulent style of an artist, none could do better than the identification Seligmann felt for this particular family heirloom. Probably the most important contribution to the formation of Seligmann’s artistic imagination, however, was the Carnival Day and its music, held each year in Basel, his native city. For that event, the citizens fill the streets dressed in fantastic headgear and medieval costumes. In a revealing quotation from a 1935 interview, Seligmann recalled: “My entire childhood was impregnated by the ancient ideal of the Soldier of Fortune which since the 15th century has left an indelible mark on Basel. The heraldic ensigns, the armor, the halyards, the drapery, the ribbons, all this anachronistic attire was very much alive for me. It seems to me that I always hear, in the depth of my ears, the deafening sound of the enormous drums that are reserved for Carnival Day. Basel, you see, is still and always Holbein, Erasmus, Frobenius, Melanchton. It is in the culture of my natal city to which my subconscious always travels whenever I begin one of my compositions, whether abstract or imaginative.” 3 One has only to turn from Seligmann’s words to his art to realize that the lack of consideration given to the Basel Carnival as an imaginative source was an egregious omission by the twelve scholars quoted in the 1961 D’Arcy Galleries catalogue. Instead, discussion of his iconographic sources was persistently focused on his Swiss, German and Italian artistic antecedents. Yet time and again, in picture after picture, we can see, and hear, the carnival. Not surprisingly, this influence also informs the artist’s considerable graphic work, represented by the illustrations done in 1944 to accompany a book of poems called Impossible Landscapes by his friend Nat Herz in New York. The same energy found in the paintings is expressed in the drawings, perhaps even more so due to the fact that the artist was not contending with the tonal values of colored pigment. We now know that the fanciful millinery worn by revelers at the Basel Carnival served as the inspiration for the complex headgear adorning the prancing figures in such drawings as They Walk in Dripping Gardens (p. 108) as well as the two versions of The White Horse Mourns (pp. 106, 107), among the book’s eleven illustrations. Is it any wonder that Seligmann’s carnival-inspired figures caught the eyes of Hanya Holm and George Balanchine who commissioned costume designs from him for their respective ballets, The Golden Fleece and The Four Temperaments in New York City in 1941 and 1946? Among the Impossible Landscapes suite are three versions of
REFLECTIONS ON AN ARTISTIC IMAGINATION
Martha Graham dances “Lamentation,” 1935. Photo by Barbara Morgan © Barbara Morgan, The Barbara Morgan Archive.
Suicide is Not Enough (pp. 106, 110, 111), and these, perhaps recalling the famous photographs of the choreographer Martha Graham by Barbara Morgan, seem tailor-made for both carnival pageantry and costume design. It should also be noted that the Impossible Landscapes drawings were done the same year as Seligmann’s masterful Myth of Oedipus suite of etchings and that his long-standing interest in Greek and Roman mythology reinforced his penchant for figurative compositions. In Seligmann’s later work of the 1950s, for example the painting titled The True Chrysanthemum (Topography of the Heart) (1958) (p. 150), one sees his characteristic agitation applied to plant-like forms rather than anthropomorphic figures, and these must have been inspired by the time he and Arlette spent tending their gardens in the country in Sugar Loaf. That he never lost or outgrew this characteristic agitation of form, drapery, vegetation or figure must take into account the indelible impressions made upon him in youth.
Of the several Seligmann exhibitions in the USA since 1961, mounted by Ruth White Gallery, New York; John Bernard Myers Gallery, New York; Helen Serger/La Boetie, New York; and the Springfield Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts, only the last two published catalogues, but these were limited to Seligmann’s engravings and other prints. 2 Sweeney, James Johnson, ed., “Eleven Europeans in America,” The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, New York, 1946, vol. XIII, nos. 4-5, pp. 11-12. 3 Héraut, Henri, “Artistes d’aujourd’hui: Kurt Seligmann, peintre d’avantgarde,” in Sud, Nr. 126, Marseille, 15 April 1935, p. 28ff. It must be noted that recent scholars, most notably Martica Sawin and Stephan E. Hauser, have on several occasions written about Seligmann’s emotional attachment to the Basel Carnival and its influence on his imagery, citing the quotation above. Its importance to Seligmann’s work cannot be emphasized enough.
REFLECTIONS ON AN ARTISTIC IMAGINATION
IMPOSSIBLE LANDSCAPES A suite of eleven ink on paper drawings 1944
SUICIDE IS NOT ENOUGH 13¼ x 10½ inches
THE WHITE HORSE MOURNS 13½ x 10½ inches
THE WHITE HORSE MOURNS (2) 17Â½ x 14 inches
SEASHORE PRESENCE 13 x 10½ inches
THEY WALK IN DRIPPING GARDENS (THE WIRE MEN MOVE SOFTLY) 13 x 10½ inches
THE SEA HORSE SLEEPS, HE IS WEARY 13 x 10½ inches
POEM FOR A GOLDEN EAGLE 13 x 10½ inches
WAS IT HIS BLOOD THAT FILLED THE SHADOWS (SUICIDE IS NOT ENOUGH) 13 x 10Â¼ inches
THEY ARE CALM AND TERRIBLE (I WALKED TO THE TOWER SLOWLY) 13 x 10 inches
SUICIDE IS NOT ENOUGH (3) 103/8 x 103/8 inches
UNTITLED 16 x 13 inches
CRYSTAL GAZER 1950 Oil on canvas 22 x 15 inches
CARNIVAL 1950 Oil on canvas 40 x 51Â½ inches
Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ALCHIMIE DE LA PEINTURE 1955 Oil on canvas 451/8 x 39 inches
THE AGE OF REASON 1950 Oil on canvas 31½ x 39¾ inches
HARPOONER 1958 Oil on canvas 30 x 27 inches
EVOCATION 1955 Oil on canvas 72 x 49 inches
FALLEN ANGELS II 1955 Oil on canvas 58¼ x 64½ inches
Photos: Seligmann in his studio, c. 1950s.
MY MYTHOLOGY KURT SELIGMANN New York, March 1960
o the artist who creates from memory, the sources of inspiration are inexhaustible. They exist in nature, in man-made things, in things seen, read, witnessed, observed, handled, dreamed about. Whatever my mind has registered or my senses experienced may
arise from the wide storage room of memory and seek its place upon the canvas.
It would, however, be an impossible task to reveal the functioning of my thoughts: why is such form remembered at a given time and not another? Why are these mind-images grouped in such a way and not differently? All I can say is that the creative process evolves from its own logicâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;that the most exuberant mind-images are clarified and rendered intelligible when I am at work in front of my easel. In 1958 a series of costume designs, which I had been commissioned to do, gave the impulse to this new group of memory paintings. The theme was a madrigal fable by Gian-Carlo Menotti in which Unicorns, Manticores and other fabulous beasts make their appearance. In this
realm of phantasy and imagination my mind travelled with delight. Independent of my costume projectâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;yet stimulated by itâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;I painted and drew these canvases, my own mythology. Myths and legends have from time immemorial inspired the artist. They contain and express a constant psychological truth. And they lend themselves generously to free associations and interpretations. These new paintings are mythical in essence, as their titles indicate: Polyphemus, the Giant, sensual Leda, the riddlesome Sphinxâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;they are standard figures, so to say, of mythology. I have interpreted them in my own way endowing them with animal and vegetable life and with that mysterious stereo-metrical growth of the mineral world. Lunar plants open their pods, emerald roses throw their seeds, and Rubezahl, the mountain spirit, wraps himself in stone layers. Indeed, there is a good deal of story telling in these canvases. I admit it reluctantly in our times of pure abstraction. And yet these paintings could not be stripped of their narrative content, I believe, without suffering in their pictorial unity. Maybe these are only ideal connections which the artist establishes between form and meaning, but I take them for real ones.
realm of phantasy and imagination my mind travelled with delight. Independent of my costume project—yet stimulated by it—I painted and drew these canvases, my own mythology. Myths and legends have from time immemorial inspired the artist. They contain and express a constant psychological truth. And they lend themselves generously to free associations and interpretations. These new paintings are mythical in essence, as their titles indicate: Polyphemus, the Giant, sensual Leda, the riddlesome Shpinx—they are standard figures, so to say, of mythology. I have interpreted them in my own way endowing them with animal and vegetable life and with that mysterious stereometrical growth of the mineral world. Lunar plants open their pods, emerald roses throw their seeds, and Rubezahl, the mountain spirit, wraps himself in stone layers. Indeed, there is a good deal of story telling in these canvases. I admit it reluctantly in our times of pure abstraction. And yet these paintings could not be stripped of their narrative content, I believe, without suffering in their pictorial unity. Maybe these are only ideal connections which the artist establishes between form and meaning, but I take them for real ones.
ENVELOPMENT II (MAN IN THE CASTLE I) 1958 Oil on canvas 50¼ x 48¼ inches
MANTICORE 1958 Oil on canvas 43½ x 35½ inches
THE POD 1959 Oil on canvas 48 x 50 inches
LEDA 1958 Oil on canvas 50 x 48 inches
METAMORPHOSIS 1958 Oil on canvas 50Â¼ x 48 inches
KNIGHT (MAN IN THE CASTLE II) 1958 Oil on canvas 40 x 40 inches
FALLEN ANGEL II 1958 Oil on canvas 39Â¾ x 40 inches
PIERROT SEATED 1961 Oil on canvas 44Â½ x 40 inches
EFFERVESCENT (CORN SPIRIT) A MYTHICAL TRILOGY I
1959 Oil on canvas 67 x 38 inches
ENVELOPMENT (MOUNTAIN SPIRIT) A MYTHICAL TRILOGY II
1959 Oil on canvas 67 x 76 inches
THE GATHERING (SPHINX AND MINOTAURE) A MYTHICAL TRILOGY III
1959 Oil on canvas 67Â¼ x 37 7/8 inches
THE KURT SELIGMANN HOUR TIMOTHY BAUM
here is a time in the day or night—a place in the well of that deepest part of the imagination—where everything is finally asleep (or intensely awake), with all the energies and images invisible or totally extinguished. This is the time and the place of the Seligmann hour. I say hour, but maybe it all occurs in the blink of a single second (or perhaps the endlessness of a separate, uncharted, previously unexplored eternity). The length of the duration of time (or timelessness?) is hardly the important issue. Only that which germinates and occurs becomes important: the emergence of the (wondrous!) imagery of Kurt Seligmann. Voilá! Now, let us peek through the separating curtain and examine all that has taken place. What extraordinary creatures—neither friend nor foe, different from any that we’ve known before, fusions of each and every race and place and century. And the landscapes—such mysterious terrains. Colour hues and tones from our jungles, forests, parks, grand plains and gardens; others intensely unfamiliar, known alone to caves and grottoes, necromancers’ hidden laboratories, fruits and plants we’ve never used nor trusted—this palette of Kurt Seligmann’s. Are you ready to join in the excitement of this adventure? Mr. Seligmann will always be out there, somewhere, to help guide us along the way. Let us shed the encumbrance of our preconceptions, and gently follow.
THE TRUE CHRYSANTHEMUM (TOPOGRAPHY OF THE HEART)
1958 Oil on canvas 44 x 40 inches
METAMORPHOSIS II 1958 Oil on canvas 44 x 50 inches
MOONSCAPE 1959 Oil on canvas 48 x 36 inches
POLYPHEMUS 1959 Oil on canvas 50 x 50 inches
UNTITLED (METAMORPHOSIS, ALTERNATIVE VERSION) 1959 Oil on canvas 48 x 34 inches
SEEN IN A CRYSTAL 1952 Oil on canvas 36 x 30 inches
ECOSSAISE 1953–54 Oil on canvas 64 x 50 inches
VANITY OF THE ANCESTORS (detail, see page 90)
CHRONOLOGY 1900 Kurt Leopold Seligmann was born in Basel, Switzerland, on July 20. His parents were Gustav Seligmann, a businessman, who opened a successful furniture store in 1909, and his wife, the former Helene Guggenheim. They also had a daughter, Marguerite, born 1897.
1912–13 Even as a child, Seligmann demonstrated an artistic proclivity. His earliest extant work is a linoleum ex libris print depicting a helmeted Roman soldier in profile, a subject he would develop in numerous variations throughout his life.
1917–18 Took private painting lessons with two local artists, Ernst Buchner and Eugen Rudolf Ammann. In November of 1918, an exhibition in Basel called Das Neue Leben (The New Life), introduced him to avant-garde art.
1918–19 He exhibited for the first time during the winter of 1918–19 by contributing five works to the annual Christmas exhibition held at the Kunsthalle in Basel. He would also contribute works to this annual exhibition in 1920, 1922, 1932, 1938 and 1952. His parents tried to discourage his interest in becoming an artist by telling him that it was impractical and that he “would never be Rembrandt.” His reply was, “I don’t want to be Rembrandt, I want to be Kurt Seligmann!” As a result, he began to study art formally at the École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, where two of his fellow students were Alberto Giacometti, who would later become famous as a painter and sculptor, and Pierre Courthion, who would go on to have a distinguished career as an art historian of Impressionist painting. During this time, he painted an oil portrait of Giacometti (now in the collection of the Kunstmuseum, Bern).
1920–1928 In February 1920, his father, whose health had deteriorated, demanded that he leave Geneva and return home to assume management of their furniture store. He would remain in this position for nearly
by Stephen Robeson Miller
eight years, during which time he was unable to work at his painting. After years of having his artistic aspirations curtailed by running his father’s business, Seligmann only became more determined to pursue his passion. He finally resigned from his management position and set off for Florence, Italy, where he enrolled in the Accademia di Belle Arti for the better part of the year.
1932 Met Ivy Langton, a naive English artist, who became his girlfriend for the next several years. Had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris. Exhibited his work at the Kunsthalles in Bern and Basel.
In February, he left for Paris where he rented a small room in the Hôtel des Écoles and enrolled in painting classes at the Académie André Lhote. After a short time there, he decided to pursue the less academic instruction offered at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére. During this time, he met the Alsatian artist and sculptor, Jean (Hans) Arp, who introduced him to Surrealist art and would become a mentor. Through Arp, he also made the acquaintance of another Surrealist, Max Ernst.
His friend Jean Hélion arranged an exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris of his own work and that of Calder, Miró, Pevsner, Seligmann and Arp from June 9–24; the catalogue introduction was by Anatole Jakovsky. Calder later stated in his autobiography that the only line he could remember from Jakovsky’s essay was “You don’t need a compass in Seligmann’s land.” Exhibition of prints at the Zwemmer Gallery and the Mayor Gallery, both in London. The publisher, Chroniques du Jour in Paris, published a numbered portfolio of fifteen of his etchings to accompany Protubérances cardiaques by Anatole Jakovsky.
Sojourn to Basel upon the death of his father. After returning to Paris, he enrolled in classes taught by the cubist painter Fernand Léger. Examples of his work were accepted for inclusion in a group exhibition at the Salon des Surindépendants. Met the leader of the Surrealist group, André Breton, as well as such abstract artists as Jean Hélion, Auguste Herbin and Alberto Magnelli. Began to develop a personal painting style which included imaginary geometric elements set against dark backgrounds in which one can detect the influence of Arp. In summer, he made a trip to Greece with the Swiss architect Le Corbusier.
Exhibited watercolors at the Galleria del Milione in Milan, March 8–21. The Paris publisher, Chroniques du Jour, published a second portfolio of fifteen of his etchings titled Vagabondages héraldiques, with an introductory essay by Pierre Courthion. A second solo exhibition of his work was held at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris.
1931 At the invitation of Jean Hélion and Arp, he joined the group of artists called Abstraction-Création Art Non Figuratif. Members included the likes of Georges Vantongerloo, Naum Gabo, Wolfgang Paalen, Alexander Calder, Antoine Pevsner, Joaquín TorresGarcía, among some thirty others. A publication illustrating their work and including philosophical statements of each participant was published annually using member contributions, the last of which appeared in 1935.
1935 Second exhibition at the Galleria del Milione, Milan, January 30–February 15. Exhibition at the Galleria Bragaglia, Rome (April–May). During a summer visit to Geneva, while at the beach on the lake, he met Arlette Paraf (she had been stung by a bee, and he came to her aid). They ended up taking the train back to Paris together, by which time, as she later stated, she knew it (the relationship) was “serious.” They were married in Paris on November 25, the witnesses being Jean Arp and Max Ernst, and left thereafter for a six-month honeymoon trip around the world. Seligmann had exhibitions in Tahiti and Japan along the way. Contributed three engravings as illustrations to the poem, Flaques, by Jean-Paul Collet.
1936 Contributed engravings as illustrations to Pierre Courthion’s Métiers des Hommes, published by Editions Guy Levis Mano in Paris. In New York, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the director of the Museum of Modern Art, included his work in the museum’s landmark exhibition, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism (November–December).
1937 Formally accepted into the Surrealist meetings by André Breton, who acquired his work for his personal collection.
1938 International Surrealist Exhibition in February, held at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, which was owned by Arlette’s uncle Georges Wildenstein. Summer spent in British Columbia collecting Indian artifacts on behalf of Claude LeviStrauss, the director of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, including a sixtyfoot totem pole which was installed at the entrance of the museum. Joined other Surrealists (Brauner, Domínguez, Ernst, Magritte, Man Ray, Masson, Matta, Miró, Paalen and Tanguy) in illustrating the complete work of Lautréamont, published by Editions G.L.M., Paris. Contributed an engraved frontispiece illustration to André Breton’s Dreams, and a set of engravings to illustrate Georges Hugnet’s A Readable Writing.
1939 His article, “Interview with a Tsimshian,” based on his findings during the time he spent in Alaska in 1938, was published in the journal Minotaure (Nr. 12/13), Paris. Arrived in New York in September with Arlette for an exhibition of his work at the Nierendorf Gallery, called Kurt Seligmann: Specters 1939 A.D.—13 Variations on a macabre theme. He was the first Surrealist to be exiled in America. Took an apartment in the Beaux-Arts building at 80 West 40th Street. Began to assist his fellow artist colleagues left behind in Europe to reach safety in the United States. Also exhibited at the New School for Social Research.
1940 His work was included in the International Surrealist Exhibition
Top: Kurt and Arlette Seligmann in Rabaul, Papau New Guinea, February 23, 1936; Bottom: The totem of Gyaedem Skanees, previously installed at the entry of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, now at the Musée de Quai Branly. Photograph © Herman Lebovics. CHRONOLOGY
held at Inés Amor’s Galería de Arte Mexicano in Mexico City (January–February). Exhibition of Drawings and Etchings by Kurt Seligmann held in March at the New School for Social Research, New York. In a gallery at the Museum of Modern Art, he met the art historian Meyer Schapiro, Professor of Art History at Columbia University, and the two became fast friends. Contributed the frontispiece image to Herodias, a poem by Stéphane
Mallarmé, with an introduction and commentary by Clark Mills, published by The Press of James A. Decker, Prairie City, Illinois. Following a visit to the residence of Schapiro’s brother-in-law, Dr. Joseph Milgram, in Marlboro, New York, he and Arlette discovered the nearby hamlet of Sugar Loaf. There they purchased a fifty-five acre farm, with barn and other farm buildings, and its accompanying late 18th century house. This would be their retreat from the city for the rest of their lives and the location of many gatherings
of their artist and writer friends. Taught painting technique and printmaking at Briarcliff Junior College, New York. The future Abstract Expressionist, Robert Motherwell, studied painting privately with Seligmann at the suggestion of Meyer Schapiro.
1941 Became a frequent contributor to the avant-garde publication, View magazine, edited by Charles Henri Ford, founded in this year, until it ceased publication in 1948. Opening of the New York City Ballet production of The Golden Fleece by Hanya Holm in March, with costumes and set designed by Seligmann, at the Mansfield Theatre. Second solo exhibition at the Nierendorf Gallery, New York (April–May). Provided the frontispiece illustration for Edouard Roditi’s book, Prison within Prison: Three Elegies on Hebrew Themes, published by The Press of James A. Decker, Prairie City, Illinois.
1942 André Breton included his work in the exhibition, First Papers of Surrealism, held at the Whitelaw-Reid Mansion, 1042 Madison Avenue, New York, from October 14–November 7. This would be the only Surrealist exhibition organized by Breton in the United States during his wartime exile. Participated in the landmark exhibition, Artists in Exile, held at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, along with fourteen of his fellow Surrealist and modernist exiles: Berman, Breton, Chagall, Ernst, Léger, Lipchitz, Masson, Matta, Mondrian, Ozenfant, Seligmann, Tanguy, Tchelitchew, and Zadkine. The famous group photograph taken by George Platt Lynes. Another memorable group photograph in which he appeared was taken at Peggy Guggenheim’s penthouse and included Marcel Duchamp, Peggy Guggenheim, Max Ernst, Frederick Kiesler, André Breton, Fernand Léger, Amédée Ozenfant, Berenice Abbott, Jimmy Ernst, John Ferren, Piet Mondrian, Stanley William Hayter, and Leonora Carrington.
Top: Charles Duits and Kurt Seligmann, at Seligmann’s opening at Galerie Maeght, Paris, 1949; Bottom: Tristan Tzara, Seligmann, and Greta Knutson, also at the Maeght opening.
He was a frequent contributor to the four issues of VVV magazine (1942–44), André Breton’s official publication in America during the Surrealists’ exile.
Artists in Exile group photo, New York, 1942. Left to right, first row: Stanley William Hayter, Leonora Carrington, Frederick Kiesler, Kurt Seligmann; second row: Max Ernst, Amédée Ozenfant, André Breton, Fernand Léger, Berenice Abbott; third row: Jimmy Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, John Ferren, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian.
1943 Contributed the cover design for the April issue of View magazine, edited by Charles Henri Ford. Contributed an engraving as the frontispiece to André Breton’s Pleine Marge, published by Nierendorf Gallery, New York. During a meeting of the Surrealist group in New York, while Breton was discussing the significance of the tarot card, Seligmann corrected him about a point he was making. Breton erupted in anger and told him that he was to consider himself expelled from the Surrealist group.
Breton returned the works he owned by Seligmann to him and told him he would not be included in any future Surrealist exhibitions. Seligmann was devastated, but, according to his friend Meyer Schapiro, the expulsion did not interfere with his personal friendships with other Surrealists. Traveled to Mexico in the summer for the opening of his solo exhibition of twenty-one paintings at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, organized by Inés Amor. While there, he and Arlette visited Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Wolfgang Paalen, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Benjamin Péret, and Gordon Onslow Ford.
1944 Durlacher Bros. Gallery, New York, published and exhibited his six etchings illustrating the Myth of Oedipus in a boxed, numbered set of fifty copies with a text by Meyer Schapiro. His work was included in The Imagery of Chess exhibition held at the Julien Levy Gallery, from December 12, 1944–January 13, 1945.
1946 After the war, all of his Surrealist colleagues living in or around New York and Connecticut, except for Tanguy, returned to Europe permanently.
Designed the costumes and stage designs for the New York City Ballet production of George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. James Johnson Sweeney, curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, included his work and interview in “Eleven Europeans in America,” The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, vol. 13, nos. 4–5. As with many of his friends, such as Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, and Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy, he and Arlette were photographed by Irving Penn. Peggy Guggenheim, who had opened her gallery called Art of This Century in New York in 1942, and who owned three works by Seligmann, coveted a 1919 Dada work by Max Ernst in Seligmann’s collection. She told him that if he did not let her have the Ernst, she would expunge Seligmann’s works from her collection and never exhibit his art again. When he and Arlette said they would not part with the Ernst, Guggenheim kept her word.
1947 His work was included in the exhibition, Abstract and Surrealist Art in America, held at the Art Institute of Chicago, from November 6, 1947–January 11, 1948.
1948 His book, The Mirror of Magic, published by Pantheon Books, New York, was critically well-received. It would be later reprinted by the same publisher under the title The History of Magic in 1952, and as Magic, Supernaturalism and Religion, by the Universal Library, New York, in 1968. It would be translated and published in Italian, French, German and Portuguese. Contributed the illustrations to Wallace Stevens’ poem, A Primitive Like an Orb, published by the Gotham Book Mart (A Prospero Pamphlet), New York.
Top: Flyer announcing publication of Seligmann’s The Mirror of Magic; Bottom: Seligmann, Tanguy, and Miriam Gabo at Tanguy and Sage’s Town Farm in Woodbury, Connecticut, c. 1950s.
Traveled with Arlette to Paris in April for a large retrospective exhibition of his work held at the Galerie Maeght. During this sojourn, he visited numerous friends, such as Tristan Tzara, Charles Duits, and César Domela. On this occasion, the gallery prepared a special number of its publication, Dérriere le mirroir (Nr. 49), about his work, with essays
by Charles Duits, Georges Duthuit, Pierre Courthion and Pierre Mabille.
1950 His neighbor and friend in the BeauxArts building, filmmaker Thomas Bouchard, made and directed a film about Seligmann called The Birth of a Painting (35 minutes in length; photography by Diane Bouchard; narration by Kurt Seligmann; music by Edgard Varése). First shown in New York on May 25, the film follows Seligmann as he creates a version of his painting Magnetic Mountain. (Since the death of Diane Bouchard in March 2013, two other films made by Thomas Bouchard about Seligmann have come to light).
He left the United States in November for Paris, where he stayed at his Villa Seurat residence, working on a new series of paintings which he called In Full Daylight (En plein jour). He would not return to New York until May 1957.
1958 Suffered a heart attack on March 31, from which he spent nearly six weeks recovering. As a result, he canceled the trip he had planned to
Paris during the summer of 1958, and gave up the idea he had entertained of making annual trips abroad. He and Arlette vacated their apartment and studio in the BeauxArts building at 80 West 40th Street, and they settled permanently on their farm in Sugar Loaf. Commissioned by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, to illustrate The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore by Gian-Carlo Menotti,
Solo exhibition at Durlacher Bros. Gallery, New York, from November 7–December 2. Seligmann organized the American delegation of artists whose work was included in the Third Exposition of Independent Artists held at the Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo, Japan, from February 27–March 18, 1951.
1951–57 Taught art at the New School for Social Research, New York.
1952 Contributed an extended “A Letter about Drawing” to the Art Institute of Chicago’s Quarterly, Vol. LXVI, no. 3, September 15, 1952. Solo exhibition at Durlacher Bros. Gallery, New York, December 16, 1952– January 10, 1953.
1953 Solo exhibition at the Alexandre Iolas Gallery, New York, in February; catalogue introduction by the Greek poet, Nicolas Calas.
1953–62 Taught art classes at Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York.
1955 On April 1, he became a naturalized United States citizen. Solo exhibition at Durlacher Bros. Gallery, New York, in November.
1956 Solo exhibition at The Fantasy Gallery, Washington, D.C. (February–March).
Catalogue from the Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings exhibition at Otto M. Gerson’s Fine Arts Associates, 1960. Cover featuring Leda (1958).
Seligmann in his Paris studio, c. 1950s.
produced in concert form by the Center Arts Council in June.
1959 Dual exhibition of Seligmann and Max Ernst held at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania (February–March).
1960 In April, Otto M. Gerson organized an exhibition for Seligmann titled Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings at his gallery, Fine Arts Associates, in New York.
1961 Retrospective exhibition at the D’Arcy Galleries, 1091 Madison Avenue, New York, April 18–May 13. The catalogue included accolades and tributes about his work by James Johnson Sweeney, Katherine Kuh, Murdock Pemberton, Edwin Alden Jewell, Nicolas Calas, Benjamin Péret,
Jean Cassou, Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, Anatole Jakovsky, Aline B. Saarinen, Parker Tyler, and Florence Stol. Solo exhibition at the Ruth White Gallery, New York.
1962 In the early morning of January 2, while preparing to shoot the rats that were menacing his bird feeder at his farm in Sugar Loaf, he slipped on the icy steps of his house, fell backwards, and his rifle accidentally discharged into his head, killing him immediately. A few minutes later, he was found by his neighbor, Charles Shaughnessy, who had come to take him to have his car repaired in the nearby town of Goshen. His obituary appeared in The New York Times and Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung, among many others. His funeral was held at Conger Memorial Funeral Home, Chester, New York. At his request, internment was at
the nineteenth century graveyard near his studio in Sugar Loaf.
1964 The D’Arcy Galleries, 1091 Madison Avenue, New York, mounted an exhibition called Kurt Seligmann: The Early Years, January 27–February 15, which included an essay by his old friend Meyer Schapiro. Coinciding with the D’Arcy Galleries exhibition, Time Magazine ran an article with color illustrations about him and his work, called “Dance without the Dancer” in its January 31 issue, vol. 83, no. 5, pp. 44, 46.
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Ausstellung der Basler Künstler, December 8, 1918– January 5, 1919
Paris, Galerie Pierre, Arp, Calder, Hélion, Miró, Pevsner, Seligmann, June 9–24, 1933
London, The Mayor Gallery Ltd., Art Now, A Survey of Contemporary Art, October 11–November 4, 1933
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, April-Ausstellung der Basler Künstler, April 6–May 11, 1919
1920 Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, TurnusAusstellung des Schweizerischen Kunstvereins, March 14–April 12, 1920 Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Basler Künstler (Weihnachtsausstellung), December 12, 1920–January 2, 1921
1922 Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Basler Künstler (Weihnachtsausstellung), December 10–31, 1922
1930 Paris, Troisième Exposition, Association Artistique Les Surindépendants, Parc des Expositions, October 25–November 24, 1930
1931 Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, L’art vivant en Europe, April 25–May 24, 1931 Paris, Galerie de la Renaissance, Association Artistique 1940, June 11–30, 1931
1932 Paris, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Seligmann, February 5–20, 1932 Paris, Galerie Vavin-Raspail, Des oeuvres de quelques jeunes peintres et sculpteurs suisses: Baenninger, Brignoni, Glarner, Hartmann, Schiess, Schoop, Seligmann, Taeuber-Arp, Wehrlin, Zender, February 26–March 12, 1932 Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Hans Arp, Serge Brignoni, Hans Schiess, Kurt Seligmann, May 28–June 19, 1932 Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, Hans Arp, Serge Brignoni, Hans Schiess, Kurt Seligmann, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, July 31–August 5, 1932 Tokyo, Exposition de la confédération des artistes d’avant-garde Paris-Tokyo 1932– 1933, touring museum exhibition in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Kanazawa, and Nagoya
London, Zwemmer Gallery, An Exhibition of Drawings, Lithographs and Etchings by Contemporary French Artists, December 19, 1933–January 6, 1934
Amsterdam, Galerie Robert, Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, opened June 3, 1938 Milan, Galleria del Milione, Arp, Domela, Kandinsky, Magnelli, Seligmann, Taeuber-Arp, Vézelay, March 5–24, 1938 Toronto, Roberts Art Gallery, Canadian National Exhibition, September 1938 Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, The SixtyFourth Autumn Exhibition, October 12, 1938–January 7, 1939
Paris, Galerie du groupe AbstractionCréation, 2 série: Béothy, Closon, Fernández, Hélion, Hepworth, Power, Prampolini, Seligmann, Taeuber-Arp, Valmier, February 2–14, 1934
Basel, Maison Schulthess Basel, Ausstellung der Künstlervereinigung Gruppe 33, January 14–28, 1939
Paris, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Toiles récentes de Paule Vézelay, Deux ouvrages de Seligmann, February 23–March 10, 1934 Milan, Galleria del Milione, Acqueforti di Kurt Seligmann, March 8–21, 1934 Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Gruppe 33, October 6–28, 1934
1935 Milan, Galleria del Milione, Kurt Seligmann, mostra personale, January 30–February 15, 1935 Rome, Galleria Bragaglia, Kurt Seligmann, mostra personale, opened April 22, 1935 Paris, Galerie Jeune Europe, Antonio Aniante présente six peintures de Okamoto, Seligmann, Vulliamy, July 1935
1936 Tokyo, Mitsukoshi Gallery, solo exhibition, opened March 26, 1936 Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Zeitprobleme in der Schweizer Malerei und Plastik, June 13–July 22, 1936
1937 Paris, Galerie Jeune Europe, Léger, Ernst, Lurçat, Schuppner, Seligmann, Vulliamy, Wart, opened July 10, 1937
Paris, Grand Palais, Société des Artistes Indépendants, 50e Salon des lndépendants, March 17–April 10, 1939 Paris, Galerie Contemporaine, Le Rêve dans l’art et la littérature de l’antiquité au Surréalisme, March 24–April 12, 1939 Paris, Petit Palais, Exposition des vitraux et des tapisseries modernes, June 4–30, 1939 Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Schweizerische Landesausstellung, II. Kunst der Gegenwart: Zeichnen, Malen, Formen, August 27–October 29, 1939 New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Kurt Seligmann: Specters 1939 A.D.—13 Variations on a macabre theme, September 27–October 15, 1939
1940 Mexico City, Gallería de arte Mexicano (Inés Amor), Exposición Internacional del Surrealismo, January–February 1940 Chicago, Katherine Kuh Gallery, Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture, March 1940 New York, New School for Social Research, Exhibition of Drawings and Etchings by Kurt Seligmann, March 18–31, 1940
New York, New School for Social Research, Adventures in Surrealist painting during the Last Four Years, March 9–22, 1941
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Neue Kunst in der Schweiz, January 9–February 2, 1938
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, April 21–May 12, 1941
Paris, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, opened January 17, 1938
Springfield, The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Gallery, Rugs by Modern Artists, June 3–22, 1941
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Fantastic in Art, Recent Acquisitions, opened July 30, 1941
New York, Julien Levy Gallery, The Imagery of Chess, December 12, 1944–January 31, 1945
New York, Wakefield Gallery, Love in Art, September–October 1941
Andover, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, European Artists Teaching in America, to November 11, 1941
1942 New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Artists in Exile, March 3–28, 1942 Pittsburgh, Boulevard of the Allies Gallery, Artists in Exile, to August 7, 1942 New York, Art of This Century, Art of This Century, opened October 20, 1942 New York, Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, Inc., First Papers of Surrealism, October 14–November 7, 1942 New York, Wakefield Gallery, Ballet in Art, October 1942
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, European Artists in America, March 13–April 11, 1945 New York, Hugo Gallery, presented by View, The Fantastic in Modern Art, opened November 15, 1945
1946 Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago, Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, March 5–30, 1946 Chicago, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Contemporary Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Earle Ludgin, October 30– November 20, 1946 New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, December 3–28, 1946
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Twentieth Century Portraits, December 9, 1942–January 24, 1943
New York, Jacques Seligmann Galleries, Introducing the Graphic Circle, January 23–February 8, 1947
Los Angeles, La Boutique, Esteban Francés, Kurt Seligmann, opened July 20, 1947
Boston, Institute of Modern Art, Europe in America, March 27–April 24, 1943 New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Recent Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, April 2–May 1, 1943 New York, Art of This Century, Collage, April 16–May 15, 1943 Mexico City, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Exposición: 21 pinturas de Kurt Seligmann, September 1943
1950 New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 7–December 2, 1950. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1950 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Art, November 9–December 31, 1950 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Painting Today 1950, December 9, 1950–February 25, 1951
1951 Tokyo, Yomiuri Shimbun, Troisième Exposition des Artistes lndépendants de Tokyo, February 27–March 18, 1951 Urbana, Department of Art, University of Illinois, Fourth Annual University of Illinois Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting, March 4–April 15, 1951 New York, Museum of Modern Art, The Making of a Painting, January 1951–June 1952 (Traveling exhibition) Shelburne Falls, Shelburne Falls Art Center, Exhibition of Abstract Modern Art, November 5–19, 1951
New York, Museum of Modern Art, How the Modern Artist Works, September 1947 (Traveling exhibition to June 1949)
Konstanz, Kunstmuseum Konstanz, Phantastische Kunst des XX. Jahrhunderts, March 1952
Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Allianz, October 18–November 23, 1947
Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Phantastische Kunst des XX. Jahrhunderts, August 30– October 12, 1952
Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Abstract and Surrealist American Art, November 6, 1947–January 11, 1948 Poughkeepsie, Vassar College Art Gallery, Solo exhibition, December 1947–January 1948
New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, December 16, 1952– January 10, 1953
New York, Wakefield Gallery, Kurt Seligmann: Etchings for Book Illustrations, November 15–27, 1943
New York, View, Inc., New Drawings, December 14–31, 1943
New York, Alexandre lolas Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, February 3–22, 1953
New York, Jacques Seligmann Galleries, The Graphic Circle, February 2–21, 1948
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Painting in America 1948, October–December 1948
New York, Kraushaar Galleries, 14 Painter-Printmakers, June 1–18, 1954 (Traveling exhibition to March 1955)
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Annual Exhibition, November 13, 1948–January 2, 1949
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Art in Progress, May–August 1944 Chapel Hill, Person Hall Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Solo graphics exhibition, July 3–22, 1944 Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 110 American Painters of Today, August 18– September 11, 1944
New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 30–December 24, 1948
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Homage to the Salon d’Automne 1944, Salon de la libération, December 1944
New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Paintings by Kurt Seligmann December 5, 1944–January 2, 1945
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Art, December 1949–January 1950
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Kurt Seligmann, April 1949
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum, Abstract and Surrealism, January 26–March 19, 1955 Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, Work in Progress, February 1955 New York, Sarah Lawrence College, Fantasy and Surrealism of the Past Fifteen Years, April 4–May 12, 1955 New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 1–26, 1955 Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum, 14 PainterPrintmakers, November 16, 1955– January 8, 1956
1956 Washington, Fantasy Gallery, Paintings by Kurt Seligmann, February 6–March 5, 1956
1957 Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, 62nd American Exhibition: Painting and Sculpture, January 17–March 3, 1957 New York, Kraushaar Galleries, 14 Painter-Printmakers, May 20–June 2, 1957
1958 Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, June 6–29, 1958
1959 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 154th Annual Exhibition of Watercolors, Prints, Drawings, January 25– March 1, 1959 University Park, Pennsylvania State University, Hetzel Union Building Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, Contemporary Surrealism, February 8–March 2, 1959
1960 New York, Georgette Passedoit and Albert Landry Gallery, The Inheritance of Hieronymus Bosch, February 23–March 12, 1960 New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960 New York, Ruth White Gallery, Thirty Years of Etchings and Lithographs by Kurt Seligmann, November 15–December 10, 1960
1961 New York, D’Arcy Galleries, Kurt Seligmann, April 18–May 13, 1961 Paris, Galerie L’antipoète, Eclats II, October 21–November 11, 1961 New York, Ruth White Gallery, Kurt Seligmann – Choreographics, December 5–30, 1961 New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Annual Exhibition 1961: Contemporary American Painting, December 13, 1961–February 4, 1962
original etchings / Twenty Years of Prints and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, May 19– June 6, 1964
University Park, Pennsylvania State University, Surrealism–A Celebration, November 7–23, 1974
Basel, Galerie d’art moderne, Aspekte des Surrealismus 1924–1965, 1965
Lausanne, Galerie Melisa, Surréalisme: Victor Brauner-Max Ernst-Kurt Seligmann-Yves Tanguy, December 6, 1974–January 31, 1975
Santa Barbara, Art Gallery of the University of Santa Barbara, A State of Mind 1924– 1965, February 26–March 27, 1966
Bonn, Galerie Pudelko, Kurt Seligmann: Bilder, Zeichnungen, Graphik, February 1– March 31, 1975
Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, Phantastische Kunst-Surrealismus, October 21– December 4, 1966
London, David Ellis-Jones, Exhibition of 25 drawings by Kurt Seligmann, April 14– May 2, 1975
Bern, Loeb Galerie, Kurt Seligmann, to May 30, 1975
Bern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Hermann Obrist, Louis Soutter, Jean Bloé Niestlé, Kurt Seligmann, May 24–June 25, 1967
1968 New York, Ruth White Gallery, Kurt Seligmann: Drawings, Etchings, Lithographs, also Important Limited Editions of Books with Original Etchings, March 30–April 27, 1968 Paris, American Center for Students and Artists, Artistes en exile 1939–1946 USA, May 16–June 6, 1968 Chicago, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Avant-garde Chicago. Exhibition of Contemporary Art from Chicago Collectors, opened November 11, 1968
1971 New York, John Bernard Myers Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 6–December 2, 1971
Chicago, Spertus Museum of Judaica, Jewish Artists of the Twentieth Century, October 5, 1975–January 30, 1976
1976 Lausanne, Galerie de l’Entracte, Kurt Seligmann, January 1976 New York, Helen Serger, La Boetie, Kurt Seligmann: paintings, drawings, graphics and designs for ballet, January 16– February 28, 1976 Washington, Hirshhorn Museum, The Golden Door: Artist-Immigrants to America, 1876–1976, May 20–October 20, 1976
1977 Zürich, Galerie Strunskaja, Kurt Seligmann: Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Graphik, January 14–March 20, 1977 Basel, Galerie Schreiner, Kurt Seligmann, November 1977–January 1978
New York, Allan Frumkin Gallery, Kurt Seligmann: his graphic work, and Helen Serger, La Boetie, New York, March– April 1973
Geneva, Cabinet des estampes de Genève, Kurt Seligmann: l’oeuvre grave, October 27– November 26, 1978
Winterthur, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Neue Sachlichkeit und Surrealismus in der Schweiz 1925–1940, September 27– November 11, 1979
Springfield, Museum of Fine Arts, Kurt Seligmann: Graphics, May 11–June 16, 1974
Zürich, Galerie Strunskaja, Kurt Seligmann: Zeichnungen und Gouachen für die Ballette The Golden Fleece von Hanya Holm und The Four Temperaments von George Balanchine, June 6–July 25, 1974
New York, D’Arcy Galleries, Kurt Seligmann: The Early Years, January 27–February 15, 1964
Geneva, Galerie Jacques Benador, Kurt Seligmann: Peintures, Dessins, Gravures, Livres, Summer 1974
New York, Ruth White Gallery, Kurt Seligmann Graphics 1942–1962, also important limited editions of books with
Zürich, Galerie Strunskaja, Kurt Seligmann: Radierungen, Zeichnungen, Gemälde, September 10–October 31, 1974
1981 Zürich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Dreissiger Jahre Schweiz – Ein Jahrzehnt im Widerspruch, October 30, 1981–January 10, 1982
1982 Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, The Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection, September 11–October 31, 1982
Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, October 19, 1982–January 9, 1983 Chicago, Spertus Museum of Judaica, The French Connection: Jewish Artists in the School of Paris 1900–1940, October 24– December 31, 1982
1983 Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Permanent Collection: The Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection, January 14– March 13, 1983 Cortaillod, Galerie Jonas, Kurt Seligmann 1900–1962 estampes et dessins, March 4– April 3, 1983
1984 Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Dada and Surrealism in Chicago Collections, December 1, 1984–January 27, 1985
1986 Marseille, Centre de la Vieille Charité, La planète affolée: Surréalisme, dispersion et influences 1938–1947, April 12–June 30, 1986
1987 Lausanne, Musée cantonal des BeauxArts, La femme et le surréalisme, November 21, 1987–February 28, 1988
1996 London, The Mayor Gallery, A Dada and Surrealist Bouquet, November 25– December 5, 1996
1997 Paris, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Les années 30 en Europe, Le temps menaçant 1929–39, February 21–May 25, 1997 London, The Mayor Gallery, Faces and Places: Dada and Surreal Portraits and Landscapes, November 18–December 19, 1997 Zug, Kunsthaus Zug, Kurt Seligmann: Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997– February 15, 1998
1998 Greenwich, Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences, The Surrealist Vision: Europe and the Americas, January 17–April 5, 1998 Paris, Berggruen & Cie, Kurt Seligmann, planches gravées, June 5–July 10, 1998 Osaka, Okazaki Mindscape Museum, Les maîtres du surréalisme: Explorateurs de l’inconscient, June 25–September 6, 1998, traveled to Museum of Art Kinetsu, Osaka, September 11–October 7, 1998 and Kitakyshu Municipal Museum of Art, October 23–November 29, 1998; catalogue co-produced with Galerie Daniel Gervis, Paris, 1998
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Die Surrealisten, December 8, 1989– February 18, 1990
St. Petersburg, Florida, Salvador Dalí Museum, Surrealism in America During the 1930s and 1940s: Selections from the Penny and Elton Yasuna Collection, November 7, 1998–February 21, 1999, traveled to The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, November 19, 1999–March 12, 2000, then to Cape Museum of Fine Arts, Dennis, Massachusetts, July 19–September 2000
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, The Legacy of Surrealism, March 10–July 7, 1991
Paris, Galerie Patrice Trigano, Kurt Seligmann: à l’enseigne du Surréalisme, September 9–October 23, 1999
Milan, Palazzo Reale, I Surrealisti, June– July 1989 Las Palmas, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, El surrealismo entre Viejo y Nuevo Mundo, December 4, 1989– February 4, 1990
1993 New York, The Grolier Club, The American Livre de Peintre, March 17– May 15, 1993
1994 Basel, Art 25’ 94, The Mayor Gallery, in association with Timothy Baum, Kurt Seligmann, June 14–20, 1994
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Surrealism: Two Private Eyes, the Nesuhi Ertegun and Daniel Filipacchi Collections, June 4–September 12, 1999 New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Impossible Landscapes of the Mind, September 13–October 16, 1999, exhibition also sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte, Reina Sofía, Surrealism in Exile, The Beginning of the New York School,
December 21, 1999–February 27, 2000, traveled to Strasbourg, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Les Surréalistes en exil et les débuts de L’École de New York, May 12–August 27, 2000
2000 Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, rot–blau, January 29–April 30, 2000 London, The Mayor Gallery, Some Summer Surrealists, June 1–July 15, 2000 Aosta, Centro Saint-Benin, Le surréalisme, une révolution, 1922–1944: hommage à Max Ernst, July 15–October 8, 2000 Zürich, Arteba Galerie H. Grieshaber, Kurt Seligmann – zum 100, Geburtstag, October 20–November 18, 2000 Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Surrealism, September 29, 2000–January 14, 2001 Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, Dreaming with Open Eyes: The Vera, Silvia, and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art in the Israel Museum, December 21, 2000–June 9, 2001, traveled to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, February 2–April 28, 2002, then to Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, June 14–September 8, 2002 Sugar Loaf, Kurt Seligmann Studio, exhibition of work from the estate and loans from private collections, 2000
2001 London, The Mayor Gallery, Surrealist Domains, September 17–November 10, 2001
2002 Paris, Centre Pompidou, La Révolution surréaliste, March 6–June 24, 2002, traveled to Kunstsammlung NordrheinWestfalen, Düsseldorf, Surrealismus 1919–1944, Dalí, Max Ernst, Magritte, Miró, Picasso…, Summer 2002 New York, Ubu Gallery, in association with Timothy Baum, Behind the Surrealist Curtain: Sex, Sensuality, and Silence, Spring 2002 New York, Ekstrom & Ekstrom, Inc., Fall 2002 exhibition
2004 Zürich, Galerie Orlando, Schweizer Kunst von Giovanni Segantini bis Cuno Amiet, February 26–May 15, 2004 London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004
Worktable in Seligmann’s studio.
University Park, Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University, Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, September 28, 2004– January 30, 2005
Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, May 28–September 25, 2011
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Dalí, Magritte, Miró: Surrealism in Paris, October 2, 2011–January 29, 2012
New York, National Academy Museum, Surrealism USA, February 17–May 8, 2005, traveled to Phoenix Art Museum, June 5–September 25, 2005
2007 Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 1937: Perfektion und Zerstörung, September 30, 2007–January 13, 2008
2009 Rome, Complesso Monumentale del Vittoriano, Dada e Surrealismo riscoperti, October 9, 2009–February 7, 2010
2011 Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Surreal Objects: Three-Dimensional Works from Dalí to Man Ray, February 11–May 29, 2011
Strasbourg, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg, L’Europe des esprits ou la fascination de l’occulte, 1750–1950, October 8, 2011–February 12, 2012, traveled to Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland, March 31–July 15, 2012
2012 Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Drawing Surrealism, October 21, 2012–January 6, 2013, traveled to Morgan Library & Museum, New York, January 25–April 21, 2013
2014 Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Solo per i tuoi occhi, Una collezione privata, dal Manierismo al Surrealismo/ For Your Eyes Only, A Private Collection, from Mannerism to Surrealism, May 23– August 31, 2014, traveled to Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland, as For Your Eyes Only, Eine Privatsammlung zwischen Manierismus und Surrealismus, September 20, 2014–January 4, 2015 Ithaca, Cornell University, Johnson Museum of Art, Surrealism and Magic, August 30–December 21, 2014, traveled to the Boca Raton Museum of Art, January 26–April 5, 2015
2015 San Francisco, Weinstein Gallery, Kurt Seligmann: First Message from the Spirit World of the Object, May 9–June 13, 2015
2013 New York, Blain|Di Donna, Dada & Surrealist Objects, October 24, 2013– January 17, 2014
COLLECTIONS SWITZERLAND Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel Staatlicher Kunstkredit, Basel-Stadt Kunstmuseum, Bern Cabinet des Estampes du Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Genéve Kunstmuseum, Winterthur Kunsthaus, Zug Kunsthaus, Zürich UNITED STATES OF AMERICA The Beinicke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut The Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Prints and Drawings, The Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York The Museum of Modern Art, New York The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York The Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina
Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas Menil Collection, Houston, Texas The Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas The Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. FRANCE Musée d’Aubusson, Aubusson Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris Musées nationaux de France Musée Cantini, Marseille, France PORTUGAL Berardo Museum of Modern Art, Lisbon MEXICO Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City ISRAEL Israel Museum, Jerusalem POLAND Muzeum Sztuki w Lodzi, Lódz BRAZIL The Art Museum of São Paulo
LIST OF WORKS Plate 1 NE VOUS EN DÉPLAISE (Léda I) 1929 Oil on panel 36¼ x 285/8 inches Exhibition history Basel, Kunsthalle, Hans Arp, Serge Brignoni, Hans Schiess, Kurt Seligmann, May 28–June 19, 1932, cat. no. 121 Bern, Kunsthalle, Hans Arp, Serge Brignoni, Hans Schiess, Kurt Seligmann, Sophie Tauber-Arp, July 31–August 28, 1932, cat. no. 86, illustrated New York, Alexandre Iolas Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, February 3–22, 1953 New York, D’Arcy Galleries, Kurt Seligmann, April 18–May 13, 1961, cat. no. 4
Literature Le minotaure, no. 12–13, May 1939, illustrated p. 24 with André Breton’s article Des tendences les plus récentes de la peinture surréaliste Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 156, no. 160
Plate 4 LA TURQUE 1932 Oil on panel 24 x 19¼ inches Exhibition history Basel, Galerie Schreiner, Kurt Seligmann, November 1977–January 1978, illustrated in catalogue, no. 10
Plate 5 Literature LE COMBAT Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– (de Tancrède et de Clorinde) 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, 1934 illustrated p. 55, no. 38 Oil on panel 70¾ x 45¼ inches Plate 2 Exhibition history BALANCEMENT Milan, Galleria de Milione, Kurt 1932/1953 Seligmann, mostra personale, January Oil on panel 30–February 15, 1935, cat. no. 15, 28½ x 23½ inches Plate 3 UN DIMANCHE (Jubivillad) 1938 Oil on panel 30½ x 25¼ inches Exhibition history New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, April 21–May 12, 1941, cat. no. 14 Paris, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Annees 30 en Europe, Le temps menaçant 1929–39, February 21–May 25, 1997, illustrated in catalogue p. 231 Zug, Kunsthaus, Kurt Seligmann. Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997– February 15, 1998, no. 21 Paris, Galerie Patrice Trigano, Kurt Seligmann: à l’enseigne du Surréalisme, September 9–October 23, 1999, no. 5 Aosta, Centro Saint-Benin, Le surréalisme, une révolution, 1922–1944: hommage à Max Ernst, July 15–October 8, 2000 Bielefeld, Kunsthalle, 1937: Perfektion und Zerstörung, September 30, 2007– January 13, 2008, illustrated in catalogue p. 446
illustrated in the accompanying Bolletino della Galleria del Milione, Nr. 36 Paris, Centre Pompidou La Révolution surréaliste, March 6–June 24, 2002, traveled to Kunstsammlung NordrheinWestfalen, Düsseldorf, Surrealismus 1919–1944, Dali, Max Ernst, Magritte, Miro, Picasso…, Summer 2002 (illustrated in German catalogue, p. 293)
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 119, no. 115
Plate 6 AUTOMNE TROMPETTE DE FOURRURE (Le Carillon Muet) aka Trumpet of Fur & Kite 1938 Oil on glass 20¼ x 161/8 inches Provenance J.B. Neumann, New York Sid Deutsch Gallery, New York
Exhibition history Toronto, Roberts Art Gallery, Canadian National Exhibition, September 1938
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, The SixtyFourth Autumn Exhibition, October 12, 1938–January 7, 1939, no. 464 New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Kurt Seligmann: Specters 1939 A.D.—13 Variations on a macabre theme, September 27–October 15, 1939, no. 12 New York, National Academy Museum, Surrealism USA, February 17–May 8, 2005, traveled to Phoenix Art Museum, June 5–September 25, 2005; illustrated in catalogue p. 109, fig. 47
Literature La Révolution surréaliste, catalogue, Paris: Centre Pompidou, 2002, illustrated p. 283 Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, p. 167
Plate 7 LE RENCONTRE DES ÉLÉMENTS c. 1940 Oil on glass 28 x 34¼ inches Exhibition history London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 1, illustrated in catalogue
Plate 8 CAVE OF THE ECHOES c. 1941–43 Mixed media collage 25 x 19 inches Provenance Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, gift of Katherine Kuh
Exhibition history New York, Art of This Century, Collage, April 16–May 15, 1943 New York, D’Arcy Galleries, Kurt Seligmann, April 18–May 13, 1961, no. 21 Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Dada and Surrealism in Chicago Collections, December 1, 1984–January 27, 1985, illustrated in catalogue p. 218 New York, Fashion Institute of Technology, Fashion and Surrealism, October 30, 1987–January 23, 1988, illustrated in catalogue p. 232 Zug, Kunsthaus, Kurt Seligmann. Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997– February 15, 1998
Literature Harriet Janis and Rudi Blesh, Collage, New York, 1962, illustrated p. 308
Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 237, no. 211
Collection of the Seligmann Center at the Orange County Citizens Foundation
Plate 9 SABBATH PHANTOMS (Mythomania) c. 1945 Oil on canvas 36¾ x 51 inches
Earle and Mary Ludgin, Evanston, IL Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Exhibition history Urbana, University of Illinois, Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture, March 3–April 7, 1957, no. 118, illustrated in catalogue plate 105 New York, The Jewish Museum, Jewish Experience in Art of the Twentieth Century, October 1975–January 1976, no. 216 Las Palmas, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, El Surrealismo entre Viejo y Nuevo Mundo, December 1989–February 1990, illustrated in catalogue p. 250 New York, The Elkon Gallery, Surrealism, November 3–December 19, 1992, no. 18, illustrated Paris, Galerie Patrice Trigano, Kurt Seligmann: a l’enseigne du Surréalisme, September 9–October 23, 1999, no. 9, illustrated in catalogue Aosta, Centro Saint-Benin, Le surréalisme, une révolution, 1922–1944: hommage à Max Ernst, July 15–October 8, 2000 London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 4, illustrated in catalogue
Literature Surrealismo e novo mundo, ed. R. Ponge, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 1999, illustrated p. 109
Plate 10 LEPORELLO 1946 Oil on canvas 35 x 23 inches Provenance Earle L. Ludgin, Jr. and Frances Alden Collection of the Seligmann Center at the Orange County Citizens Foundation
New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, December 3–28, 1946, no. 10 Sugar Loaf, The Kurt Seligmann Studio Exhibition, 2002
Plate 12 LA RONDE (The Round Dance) 1940–41 Oil on paperboard 54 x 66 inches Provenance Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin Bauer Collection
Exhibition history Mexico City, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Exposición: 21 pinturas de Kurt Seligmann, September 1943, no. 14 Chicago, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Contemporary Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Earle Ludgin, October 30– November 20, 1946, cat. no. 16 Chicago, Spertus Museum of Judaica, Jewish Artists of the Twentieth Century, October 5, 1975–January 30, 1976, cat. no. 55 Chicago, Spertus Museum of Judaica, The French Connections: Jewish Artists in the School of Paris 1900–1940, October 24– December 31, 1982, cat. no. 62 Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Permanent Collection: The Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection, January 14– March 13, 1983, cat. no. 38 Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Dada and Surrealism in Chicago Collections, December 1, 1984–January 27, 1985, illustrated in catalogue p. 217 Lausanne, Musée Cantonal des BeauxArts de Lausanne, La femme et le Surréalisme, November 21, 1987– February 28, 1988, illustrated in catalogue
New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, December 3–28, 1946, no. 15
Terry Ann Neff, ed., In the Mind’s Eye: Dada and Surrealism, New York, 1986, published in conjunction with the exhibition Dada and Surrealism in Chicago Collections, illustrated p. 217
Plate 11 AMPHITRITE 1946 Oil on canvas 24 x 32 inches
Plate 13 ISIS 1944 Oil on canvas 65 x 30 inches
New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Paintings by Kurt Seligmann, December 5, 1944–January 2, 1945 Chicago, The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Avant-garde Chicago. Exhibition of Contemporary Art from Chicago Collectors, opened November 11, 1968 Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Permanent Collection: The Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection, January 14–March 13, 1983
Plate 14 ALASKA 1944 Oil on board 30 x 26 inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, December 5, 1944–January 2, 1945, no. 7 Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte, Reina Sofía, Surrealism in Exile, The Beginning of the New York School, December 21, 1999–February 27, 2000, traveled to Strasbourg, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Les Surréalistes en exil et les débuts de L’École de New York, May 12–August 27, 2000, illustrated in catalogue p. 139 London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 2, illustrated in catalogue Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, May 28–September 25, 2011, illustrated in catalogue p. 227 Ithaca, Cornell University, Johnson Museum of Art, Surrealism and Magic, August 30, 2014–December 21, 2014, traveled to the Boca Raton Museum of Art, January 26–April 5, 2015
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated in b/w p. 260, no. 228
Plate 15 HERALDIC APPARITION 1947 Oil on canvas 48 x 54 inches Exhibition history Louisville, J.B. Speed Art Museum; Columbia, MO, Fine Arts Center, Private
Worlds, traveling exhibition organized by the American Federation of Arts, New York, March 1960–March 1961, no. 28
Plate 16 THE INTRUDER 1946 Oil on canvas 26 x 30 inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Recent Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, April 2–May 1, 1943, no. 5 Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, June 6–29, 1958
Plate 17 VANITY OF THE ANCESTORS 1940–43 Oil on panel 49 x 59 inches Exhibition history Mexico City, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Exposición: 21 pinturas de Kurt Seligmann, September 1943, no. 15 Basel, Galerie Schreiner, Kurt Seligmann, November 1977–January 1978, no. 16, illustrated in catalogue Paris, Galerie Patrice Trigano, Kurt Seligmann: à l’enseigne du Surréalisme, September 9–October 23, 1999, no. 6, illustrated in catalogue Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte, Reina Sofía, Surrealism in Exile, The Beginning of the New York School, December 21, 1999–February 27, 2000, illustrated in catalogue p. 93, traveled to Strasbourg, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Les Surréalistes en exil et les débuts de L’École de New York, May 12– August 27, 2000, illustrated in catalogue p. 89
Plate 18 NOCTAMBULATION 1942 Oil on panel 44 x 33 inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Recent Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, April 2–May 1, 1943 Paris, Galerie Maeght, Kurt Seligmann, April 1949 Basel, Galerie Schreiner, Kurt Seligmann, November 1977–January 1978, illustrated in catalogue, no. 25
Literature “Eleven Europeans in America,” The
Museum of Modern Art Bulletin: Vol. XIII, Nos. 4–5, 1946, New York, illustrated p. 12 Art Journal 33, no. 3: 271 Spring 1974, illustrated in gallery advertisement for Helen Serger La Boetie, Inc., New York
Plate 33 CARNIVAL 1950 Oil on canvas 40 x 51½ inches
Plate 19 CYBELE III 1949 Oil on canvas 39¼ x 26 inches
Milan, Amici della Francia, Seligmann, Crippa, Donati, Matta, Aldrovandi, Peverelli, de Luigi, Fontana, Joppolo, Giancarozzi, and Dova, March 1–15, 1952 New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 21 Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Dalí, Magritte, Miró: Surrealism in Paris, October 2, 2011–January 29, 2012, illustrated in catalogue p. 94
Plate 20 SORCERESSE 1948 Oil on canvas 30 x 40 inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 30–December 24, 1948, no. 14 New York, John Bernard Myers Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 6–December 2, 1971 Strasbourg, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg, L’Europe des esprits ou la fascination de l’occulte, 1750–1950, October 8, 2011–February 12, 2012 then to Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland, March 31–July 15, 2012
Plate 21–31 IMPOSSIBLE LANDSCAPES DRAWINGS 1944 Exhibition history New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Impossible Landscapes of the Mind, September 13–October 16, 1999, exhibition also sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts
Literature Barbara Singer, Stephen Robeson Miller, Barbara J. Bloemink, Ph.D., The Impossible Landscapes of Nat Herz and Kurt Seligmann, New York, 1999
Plate 32 CRYSTAL GAZER 1950 Oil on canvas 22 x 15 inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 7–December 2, 1950, no. 13
Plate 34 L’ALCHIMIE DE LA PEINTURE 1955 Oil on canvas 451/8 x 39 inches Exhibition history New York, D’Arcy Galleries, Kurt Seligmann, April 18–May 13, 1961, no. 39, illustrated Geneva, Galerie Jacques Benador, Kurt Seligmann: Peintures, Dessins, Gravures, Livres, 1974, no. 10 Bonn, Galerie Pudelko, Kurt Seligmann: Bilder, Zeichnungen, Graphik, February 1– March 31, 1975, illustrated in catalogue Zürich, Galerie Strunskaja, Kurt Seligmann: Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Graphik, January 14–March 20, 1977, no. 11, illustrated on catalogue cover
Plate 35 THE AGE OF REASON 1950 Oil on canvas 31½ x 39¾ inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 7–December 2, 1950, no. 17
Plate 36 HARPOONER 1958 Oil on canvas 30 x 27 inches Exhibition history Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, June 6–29, 1958 (uncolored version) University Park, Pennsylvania State University, Hetzel Union Building LIST OF WORKS
Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, Contemporary Surrealism, 1959 (uncolored version) Basel, Galerie Schreiner, Kurt Seligmann, November 1977–January 1978, no. 15 (colored version)
Plate 37 EVOCATION 1955 Oil on canvas 72 x 49 inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, November 1–26, 1955, no. 4 New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1957 Annual Exhibition: Sculpture, Paintings, Watercolors, November 20, 1957–January 12, 1958, then traveling with Whitney Annual 1958–1959 touring exhibition, March 1, 1958–May 5, 1959 (10 venues) Kent, Paris-New York-Kent Gallery, Artists who worked in Paris, New York, and Connecticut, June 25–July 24, 1994
Plate 38 FALLEN ANGEL II 1958 Oil on canvas 39¾ x 40 inches Exhibition history Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, June 6–29, 1958 New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, Watercolors and Drawings, November 19, 1958–January 4, 1959, no. 149; then traveled from March 1959–April 1960 under the auspices of the American Federation of Arts
Plate 39 ENVELOPMENT II (Man in the Castle I) 1958 Oil on canvas 50¼ x 48¼ inches Exhibition history Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, June 6–29, 1958 New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960 Zug, Kunsthaus, Kurt Seligmann. Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997–February 15, 1998 London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 6
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 364, no. 285; p. 369, no. 288
Plate 40 MANTICORE 1958 Oil on canvas 43½ x 35½ inches Exhibition history University Park, Pennsylvania State University, Hetzel Union Building Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, Contemporary Surrealism, 1959, no. 3 New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 1, illustrated in catalogue Zug, Kunsthaus, Kurt Seligmann. Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997– February 15, 1998
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 381, no. 301
Plate 41 THE POD 1959 Oil on canvas 48 x 50 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 12, illustrated in catalogue Zug, Kunsthaus, Kurt Seligmann, Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997–February 15, 1998 London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 12, illustrated in catalogue
Zug, Kunsthaus, Kurt Seligmann. Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997– February 15, 1998
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 373, nos. 291 & 292; p. 377, no. 295
Plate 43 METAMORPHOSIS 1958 Oil on canvas 50¼ x 48 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 6, illustrated in catalogue Zug, Kunsthaus, Kurt Seligmann. Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997– February 15, 1998 London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 7
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 364, no. 285; p. 375, no. 293
Plate 44 KNIGHT (Man in the Castle II) 1958 Oil on canvas 40 x 40 inches Exhibition history
Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900– 1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 376, no. 294
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Paintings and Drawings by Kurt Seligmann, June 6–29, 1958 University Park, Pennsylvania State University, Hetzel Union Building Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, Contemporary Surrealism, 1959 New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 3, illustrated in catalogue
Plate 42 LEDA 1958 Oil on canvas 50 x 48 inches
Plate 45 FALLEN ANGELS II 1955 Oil on canvas 58¼ x 64½ inches
New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 4, illustrated on catalogue cover
New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, April 4–May 12, 1955, no. 10. Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, 62nd American Exhibition: Painting and Sculpture, January 17–March 3, 1957, no. 110, illustrated in catalogue
Zug, Kunsthaus, Kurt Seligmann. Eine Retrospektive, November 22, 1997–February 15, 1998
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900–1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 357, no. 283
Plate 46 PIERROT SEATED 1961 Oil on canvas 44½ x 40 inches Exhibition history Basel, Galerie Schreiner, Kurt Seligmann, November 1977–January 1978, no. 30
Plate 47 EFFERVESCENT (Corn Spirit) A Mythical Trilogy I 1959 Oil on canvas 67 x 38 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 15, illustrated in catalogue London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 11
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900–1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 379, no. 297
Plate 48 ENVELOPMENT (Mountain Spirit) A Mythical Trilogy II 1959 Oil on canvas 67 x 76 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 13, illustrated in catalogue
Literature Sawin, Martica, “Magus, Magic, Magnet: The Archaizing Surrealism of Kurt Seligmann,” in Arts Magazine 60, February 1986, pp. 76–81, illustrated p. 76 Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900–1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 379, no. 298
Plate 49 THE GATHERING (Sphinx and Minotaure) A Mythical Trilogy III 1959 Oil on canvas 67¼ x 37 7/8 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 6, illustrated in catalogue Philadelphia, The Art Alliance, Oils, Prints, Books by Kurt Seligmann, November 2–26, 1961
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900–1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 379, no. 299
Plate 50 THE TRUE CHRYSANTHEMUM (Topography of the Heart) 1958 Oil on canvas 44 x 40 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 5 New York, American Federation of Arts, Faculty Artists, November 1961–November 1962, no. 32
Literature Stephan E. Hauser, Kurt Seligmann 1900–1962: Leben und Werk, Basel, 1997, illustrated p. 367, no. 286
Plate 51 METAMORPHOSIS II 1958 Oil on canvas 44 x 50 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 16, illustrated in catalogue New York, American Federation of Arts, Faculty Artists, November 1961–November 1962, cat. no. 31 London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 8
Plate 52 MOONSCAPE 1959 Oil on canvas 48 x 36 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 11, illustrated in catalogue
Plate 53 POLYPHEMUS 1959 Oil on canvas 50 x 50 inches Exhibition history New York, Fine Arts Associates (Otto M. Gerson), Kurt Seligmann: Recent Paintings, April 5–23, 1960, no. 9
Plate 54 UNTITLED (Metamorphosis, alternative version) 1959 Oil on canvas 48 x 34 inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, December 16, 1952–January 10, 1953, no. 2
Plate 55 SEEN IN A CRYSTAL 1952 Oil on canvas 36 x 30 inches Exhibition history New York, Durlacher Bros. Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, December 16, 1952–January 10, 1953, no. 11 Philadelphia, The Art Alliance, Oils, Prints, Books by Kurt Seligmann, November 2–26, 1961
Plate 56 ECOSSAISE 1953–54 Oil on canvas 64 x 50 inches Exhibition history London, The Mayor Gallery, Kurt Seligmann, June 8–July 30, 2004, no. 12, illustrated in catalogue
LIST OF WORKS
Seligmann at his Sugar Loaf farm, c. 1950s.