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 James Meikle Guy  (1909 - 1983)

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Lived/Active: Connecticut      Known for: surreal view, geometric abstract

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BIOGRAPHY for James Guy
1909 (Middletown, Connecticut)
1983 (Moodus, Connecticut)


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surreal view, geometric abstract

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, courtesy of Dwight Boyd, is from "American Screenprints" by Reba and Dave Williams:

James Guy studied at the Hartford Art School. He worked on the WPA/FAP
in New York City as an easel painter. Later he taught at Macmurran
College and Wesleyan University. Guy was a surrealist painter, who
later turned to geometric abstraction; he was only incidentally a

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
James Meikle Guy first studied art at the Hartford Art School.  In the late 1920s he began exhibiting in the annual shows at the Wadsworth Atheneum and came to know the museum’s director, Everett Austin, who encouraged and supported his work. 

In 1931 Austin, with the help of New York gallery owner Julian Levy, organized the first major surrealist exhibition in the United States, "Newer Super-Realism", which included the work of Salvador Dali, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró. Guy most likely saw the show, since his own work was on exhibit in the museum’s annex gallery at that time. (1)

Well entrenched in leftist politics of his time, Guy produced a labor play called Strike in Providence, Massachusetts, and later took it to New York, where it had a brief run. After the play closed, Guy decided to remain in New York City. (2)

He joined the John Reed Club, where he met a kindred spirit in artist Walter Quirt. Together they became the main proponents of the social surrealism art movement, in which social ills were described in a representational style as though conceived in dreams or delusions.  Their aim was to direct attention to the inequities of the Great Depression by means of an unusual juxtaposition of figures and objects.  Their work has been compared to that of Dali and Josè-Clemente Orozco, with whom Quirt and Guy spent time when the Mexican muralist was completing a fresco cycle at Dartmouth College. (3)

Sources include:

1. Elizabeth M. Kornhauser, American Paintings before 1945 in the Wadsworth Atheneum. vol. 2, New Haven: Yale UNiversity Press, 1996,

2. Ilene Susan Fort, “James Guy: A Surreal Commentator,” Prospects 12 (1987): 147.

3. Ibid. 131. Marilyn Laufer for Columbus Museum

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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