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Byron Browne (1907-1961), Abstract Artist



Byron Browne, Circus Figures, ca. 1946
Byron Browne, Circus Figures, ca. 1946
Watercolor and gouache over graphite on paper,
19 1/2 x 24 1/2 inches

Long recognized as a major force in American abstract art, George Byron Browne (frequently referred to as Byron Browne) is also acknowledged as one of the founders of Abstract Expressionism, along with his contemporaries Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning. Browne was primarily influenced by Surrealism and Cubism, although his work is unusually distinctive in its use of line and bright palette.

Byron Browne was born in 1907 in New York City. He received traditional training in academic painting at the National Academy of Design, where he studied from 1924-28 with Charles Hinton, Charles Hawthorne, Charles Courtney Curran, Ivan Olinsky, Robert Aitken and Alice Murphy. About 1928, Browne began a lifelong friendship with Arshile Gorky and began working in an abstract mode. In 1928, he destroyed the majority of his figurative student paintings.

During the 1930s and '40s Byron Browne worked prodigiously, and quickly developed a unique abstract aesthetic. He participated in the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s, and became politically active with the Artists' Union. Throughout this period, Browne frequently published articles on abstract art and American culture in the short-lived but daring newspaper of the Artists' Union, Art Front.

Bold forms, high color, hard edges and geometric shapes characterize Byron Browne's initial forays into abstraction, although the artist's mature works dating from the mid-1940s on are more biomorphic, and make use of a line derived from Miró and other Surrealists. During this later period, Browne also merged his interest in Cubism with his desire to include representational elements in his paintings, and he often rendered semi-abstract figures.

Byron Browne was married to the artist Rosalind Bengelsdorf. He lived in New York City and in Lakewood, New Jersey throughout his life. He taught at Art Students League from 1948-1959, and at New York University from 1959 until his death in 1961.

Byron Browne was a charter member of the American Abstract Artists; the Artists' Equity Association; Audubon Artists; the American Artists Congress; Allied Artists of America; and the Yonkers Art Association. He exhibited his work at the National Academy of Design, New York (1928); the Art Institute of Chicago (1928, 1935); the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1928, 1930, 1947, 1953, 1957); the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (1930-31, 1936, 1946-47, 1951, 1954); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1935-1939, 1946); and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1939). Browne's work is included in many important private and public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Texas; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.


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