(1890 - 1967)
Jean (Yiannis Xirocostas) Xceron was active/lived in New York / Greece. Jean Xceron is known for abstract, non-objective painting, collage, mixed-media.
Biography from the Archives of askART
A modernist artist who emigrated to America from Greece in 1904, when
he was fourteen years old, Jean Xceron is described as having a
reputation as an artist that has mysteriously fallen into
obscurity---especially since he was reportedly quite prominent during
his lifetime. However, a partial explanation of that omission is
the fact that many of his papers and early records have been
lost. He was a painter of biomorphic abstractions and did
collages, which were influenced by Dadaism.
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Xceron was active in New York City when modernism was gaining
influence. Of him during this period, it was written that his artistic role was "a
vital link between what is commonly termed as the first-generation (the
Stieglitz group, the Synchromists, etc.) and second-generation, the
American Abstract Artists, the Transcendental Painting Group . . ."
(Vrachopoulos) Because the abstract influence that moved into the
New York art world after World War I went into abeyance during World
War II, Xceron somehow has gotten classified as part of the second
generation but omitted as part of the pioneers. However,
examination of his paintings and knowledge of his activities indicate he was consistent with his unique
abstract style from 1916 to 1932. After that, his work became
He was born in Isary, Greece with the birth name of Yiannis
Xirocostas. Upon arrival in America, he lived with various
relatives around the country, and then between 1911 and 1912, studied
at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC. At that point, he
changed his surname to Xceron, and he was called John, which is the
English translation for Yiannis. However, when he later studied
in France, he was called Jean, the French equivalent of John, so those
first names have been used interchangeably. The next year, after
graduating from the Corcoran, Xceron moved to New York City.
He, like many of his artist peers, was much influenced by the 1913
Armory Show, a venue that made provided many Americans their first
exposure to modernist or abstract art, much of it imported from
France. At that time, Xceron was affiliated with the artists
around Alfred Stieglitz, who was about the only promoter of modern art
in America, something he did through his New York City Gallery 291. Borrowing
some of the abstract Armory Show works that Stieglitz had obtained,
Xceron and some colleagues staged their own exhibition in Washington DC. This marked him
and his group as being rebels, that is in violation of academic methods
prescribed by those who set those standards at the National Academy of
Underscoring Xceron's commitment to non-traditional artwork was his
membership in the Society of Independent Artists as well as his close
association with Cubist painter Max Weber, Futurist painter Joseph
Stella, and Dada Greek poet, Theodoros Dorros.
In 1927, he went to
Paris to further his art career, which included study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts; he remained for ten years, leaving as
World War II approached. He earned money by writing art reviews
for the European editions of the Chicago Herald Tribune, the New York Herald Tribune, and the Boston Evening Transcript.
In this capacity, he became a link as a writer between the European
avant-garde and the American public. But he also did much artwork
aligned him with the French modernist movements, and by the time he
returned to the United States, his work was totally abstract. In
1938, he joined the American Abstract Artists, a group that was
quite controversial in the 1940s and 50s in America because it was so
different from the prevalent American Scene painting.
Many of the
Europeans artists fleeing Europe became associated with Xceron in New
York City during the war years of the 1940s such as Fernand Leger and Piet
Mondrian. In fact, Xceron was the person Mondrain first wrote to
he decided to leave Europe and needed help.
Xceron's work was added to the
collection of the Museum of Modern Art; he received a mural commission
for Riker's Island under the Federal Art Project; and in the 1940s and
1950s, he was employed in a Registrar capacity by Hilla Rebay at the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In that position, he was able to do
his own painting as well in his spare time, and he had gallery
exhibitions and regular exposure at the Guggenheim in their
non-objective shows. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, his
work reflected Abstract Expressionism such as in the painting commission, Radar, he did for the University of Georgia.
Jean Xceron died in 1967.
Thalia Vrachopoulos, "Jean Xceron: Neglected Master and Revisionist Politics", PART, publication of A Society for the Promotion of Interdisciplianry Visual Culture.
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