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 Morris Hirshfield  (1872 - 1946)

About: Morris Hirshfield
 

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Lived/Active: New York / Poland/Russian Federation      Known for: naive surreal, mod erotica, animal

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BIOGRAPHY for Morris Hirshfield
Facts/Data
Birth
1872 (Poland)
 
Death
1946 (Brooklyn, New York)

Lived/Active
New York / Poland/Russian Federation

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naive surreal, mod erotica, animal

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in a small Polish town, he came to New York City at age 18. He worked in a factory making women's coats and later became the owner of one of the largest slipper manufacturing businesses in New York. In 1937, ill health forced retirement, so he turned to art. By 1939, two of his paintings were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. During his remaining seven years of life, he did over seventy paintings and was, in 1943, given a retrospective by MOMA. His work is described as a charming mixture of the bizarre and the decorative. He was especially fascinated by animals and female nudes.

Biography from Galerie St. Etienne:
Hirshfield was born in a small Polish town near what was then the German border.  As a young boy, his artistic ability was recognized when he created an impressive sculpture for his synagogue. 

He immigrated to the United States when he was eighteen, settled in New York City, and found employment with a factory that manufactured women’s coats.  After several years as a laborer, he and his brother started their own business, producing first coats and later slippers.  They became one of the most successful slipper manufacturers in New York, but poor health forced Hirshfield to retire in 1935.  It was then that he turned to art.

His early efforts caused him disappointment. As he wrote to Sidney Janis, “It seems that my mind knew well what I wanted to portray, but my hands were unable to produce what my mind demanded.”  Nevertheless, in 1939 two of Hirshfield’s paintings were selected to be included in a private exhibition of “Unknowns” at the Museum of Modern Art.  In 1943 he was given a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art that caused a great deal of controversy.  The Art Digest sardonically dubbed Hirshfield, “The Master of the Two Left Feet.”  Yet Hirshfield weathered the storm of controversy and emerged as one of the most prominent folk artists of the century.  Several of his paintings are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and he has been included in exhibitions at the Marie Harriman Gallery, the Art of this Century Gallery, the Sidney Janis Gallery, the Galerie St. Etienne, the Musée de l’Art Moderne in Paris and in almost every major survey of folk art around the world.

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