The American art produced during the mid-20th century embodies a philosophy that is unique and represents one of the greatest collecting opportunities within the fine art market. The deliberate and necessary departure from the traditionally accepted stylistic and theoretical aesthetics was a challenge taken on by modern artists during the 20th century. Looking for a new mode of expression which identified more clearly with their own artistic and personal sensibilities, artists embarked upon defining a new relationship between themselves and their medium. This ultimately changed the visual experience for the viewer and the universal definition of art.
The European masters such as Braque, Matisse and Picasso dominated the landmark Armory show in 1913, and the Stieglitz group, including Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe and John Marin, dominated the early modernist movement, but it would be the abstract expressionist icons such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and David Smith who would lead America to dominate the art market in the mid-20th century.
There were many more artists who possessed incredible talent but lacked the combination of dealer, collector and curator exposure, coupled with publicity and marketing, that would boost others to iconic recognition. Rediscovering the artistic skill, dedication and vision of these Hidden Gems is the mission and focus of Levis Fine Art.
For the past five years, we have successfully endeavored to locate and secure works of art by these forgotten modernists to organize, create and publish reputable scholarship and exhibitions of their bodies of work. We are proud to announce the retrospective exhibition of the lifetime works of Albert Wein, N.A. (1915-1991) being held at the Boston Athenæum. Albert Wein: An American Modernist will be on view from September 17 thru November 29, 2008 and will be accompanied by the first major monograph on the artist’s life and work, written and curated by the Athenæum’s Susan Morse Hills Curator of Paintings and Drawings, David Dearinger. Levis Fine Art is proud to be a major supporter of the artistic legacy of Albert Wein. In addition to organizing the team that created the exhibition, Levis Fine art has lent several of Wein’s iconic works to the exhibition. In addition, numerous other fine works are on view at www.levisfineart.com.
Influence remains as precious to an artist as their tools; it is the strength and foundation upon which they test their own artistic abilities, resulting in a unique inner voice, one which resonates in each stroke and contour within their body of work. Multi-dimensional artist, Albert Wein serves as an exemplary artist who built upon his influences, ultimately transcending his voice across a range of themes, mediums and styles. His willingness to experiment with such a variety of influences provides a clearer understanding of his lifetime commitment to “modernize the classical tradition”.
Beginning with his studies at the Maryland Institute and the National Academy of Design, during the late 1920s, Wein received incredible support and guidance in the period of classical antiquity. By the early 1930s Wein had enrolled in the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in Manhattan, looking to pursue a career which was architecture based, but art oriented. His sculpture, Adam, portrays both the strength of physical space and the delicacy of emotion, a revelation of what would become his signature style. Notable artists such as Chaim Gross, Ibram Lassaw and Nathaniel Kaz were just a few of the well-accomplished on the Institute’s list of students at the time, but Sidney Waugh, a teacher at the Institute, would be credited with having the most impact on Wein’s artistic ideologies. Waugh appealed to Wein’s unrelenting infatuation with multi-dimension and multi-medium works of art. From the earliest stages in Wein’s artistic development, he simultaneously used different mediums.
Wein’s early career proved highly successful as he won many of the major awards given by the National Sculpture Society, National Academy of Design and the Architectural League. The most prestigious of awards, the Prix de Rome, was bestowed upon Albert in 1947 for his obvious commitment to the modernization of the classical canon. Beethoven, Dancing Girl, Phryne and Homage to Bela Bartok were all created while Wein studied and worked in Rome during 1947 and 1948. Each work addresses Wein’s approach to providing only the most necessary of details with a consistent focus on the nude female figure as a subject. The monumentality of these small works transcends their physical space and emotional dynamism.
Wein’s infatuation with the female form prevailed throughout his career. Like other notable modernists, his style dramatically changed over his oeuvre, making amends for certain artistic styles and themes concurrent with the times. His earliest works from the 1930’s were heavily influenced by the W.P.A. style of massive, powerful figures, as seen in Harvest. His works dating from the late 1940s reveal a softer, perhaps more mindful approach towards the human form, a style he would later return to in the 1970s. Even during Wein’s abstract period of the 1950s and 60s, his utilization and adaptation of the classical form is evident. It is in these pieces that his true voice is most vulnerable and apparent; everything has been pared down and the only remnants are raw emotion and pure form.
In 1979 Wein won the commission to create the design for the Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana. This 30 foot granite bas relief remains Wein’s most important and most technically challenging work created. Both the concept and the work itself gained Wein national attention and allowed him to work aside an architect fulfilling his lifetime desire of combining art and architecture.
Wein’s last major award was granted by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1989 and allowed Wein one last opportunity to study from the classical canon firsthand. The drawings from this period reflect incredible fluidity and ease depicting the human figure.
Wein’s notable and varied exhibition history including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney, support the recognition of his unique ability to master the human form in any material, whether bronze, wood, or terracotta. His unrelenting dedication to the human form, to the classical canon and to the modernization of both, reflect the ingenuity of an artist willing to take risks which produced a powerful aesthetic. All castings are lifetime.
We hope that you will visit the Boston Athenæum and also visit our website for the full exhibition history and biography of Albert Wein. Please contact Jim Levis at 646-620-5000 or Jim@levisfineart.com for more information on the pieces listed or others for sale in our inventory.
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