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 Henry Albert Botkin  (1896 - 1983)

About: Henry Albert Botkin


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Lived/Active: New York/California/Massachusetts      Known for: mod figure-views, still life, non objective painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Henry Botkin
1896 (Boston, Massachusetts)

New York/California/Massachusetts

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mod figure-views, still life, non objective painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Henry Botkin studied at the Art Students League in New York City and also painted at Provincetown.  He was an abstract painter who served from 1957 to 1961 as President of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors.  He was a long time resident of New York City.

In 1935, he visited Charleston, South Carolina where he painted low-country blacks in a romantic manner that some criticized for lacking social realism.  By the late 1940s he had turned to abstraction in oils and collage.

He was hosted by his cousin and close companion, George Gershwin, composer, who was in Charleston with DuBose Heyward at Folly Beach setting his novel "Porgy" to music. Botkin was Gershwin's painting teacher, and Gershwin collected many of Botkin's paintings which people said corresponded in mood to Gershwin's music.  Martha Severens in her book, The Charleston Renaissance, wrote: "The interaction between the two cousins was a dynamic one, and Botkin created paintings that reflect Gershwin's music. Correspondences are found in subject and in style. Both had a genuine interest in African-American culture that preceded their visit to Folly Beach and the evolution of "Porgy and Bess". . . .They talked art together and spent years of their lives together". (112)

Botkin also acted as an art advisor to Ira and George Gershwin, traveling to Paris to buy works for them and for their friends including William Paley, Fanny Brice, and Billy Rose.

Botkin helped to organize the first exhibition of American abstract painting at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan, in 1955.

Peter Hastings Falk (Editor), Who Was Who in American Art
Martha Severens, The Charleston Renaissance

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Boston, MA on April 5, 1896. Botkin studied art in Boston, NYC, and Paris. After 1921 he worked as an illustrator in various places in Europe and the U.S. During the late 1930s he was in Los Angeles. He died in Flushing, NY in March 1983. His subjects include African-Americans, the theater, still lifes and landscapes. Exh: Stendahl Gallery (LA), 1937; De Young Museum, 1943 (self-portrait).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Childs Gallery:
Henry Albert Botkin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 5th, 1896.  After his early training at the Massachusetts College of Art, he moved to New York City.  Botkin took classes in drawing and illustration at the Art Students League and worked as an illustrator for Harper's, The Saturday Evening Post and Century magazines.

Botkin remained in New York City for eight years and then in the early 1920s, he moved to Paris to devote himself exclusively to painting.  He held his first European exhibition in Paris at the Billiet Gallery in 1927.  In addition to working on his own painting, Botkin acted as agent purchasing works by outstanding artists for prominent collectors, including his cousin George Gershwin.

Botkin returned to New York in 1930 and married Rhoada Lehman and in 1934 joined Gershwin in Folly Island, South Carolina. Botkin and Gershwin worked simultaneously; Gershwin composing the opera, "Porgy and Bess" and Botkin painting scenes from the life of the American Negro in the South.  Botkin also encouraged his cousin to paint and after Gershwin's death in 1937, he arranged an exhibition in New York City of Gershwin's work at Avery Fisher Hall (which was formerly known as the Philharmonic Hall - it was remodeled in 1976).

In the late 1930s, Henry Botkin began to develop a new approach to his painting.  He moved away from the earlier impressionist influence and turned to abstraction.  Botkin took an active role in bringing abstract art into greater public awareness and served as president of four major art organizations including: The Artist's Equity Association, The American Abstract Artist's Group 256 in Provincetown, and the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors.  In 1955 Botkin arranged the first exhibition of American abstract art at the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Japan.  He also organized the sale of five hundred and forty paintings at the Whitney Museum in New York, 1959.  Botkin spoke on the radio, "The Voice of America," television, lead panel discussions throughout the country, and lectured and taught privately in New York, California, and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Botkin became interested in working with collage in the early 1950s and collage dominated his work from the 1960s until his death in 1983.  Childs Gallery is the sole agent for the estate of Henry Botkin.

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