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 Maurice Freed  (1911 - 1981)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Illinois      Known for: magazine illustrations

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

MAURICE FREED (1911 - 1981)

Maurice Freed, a native of Pottsville, Pennsylvania and a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art, lived and painted in Philadelphia during most of his life.  At the age of nineteen, he won a scholarship to the Cape School of Art in Provincetown where he studied with Henry Hensche, Morris Davidson, and Albert Alcalay.  At twenty-one, he sketched on the beaches at Atlantic City, New Jersey and then in 1934, at the age of twenty two, his talents were recognized when he was invited to Chicago to become Art Director of Esquire Magazine. 

Following his early professional success at Esquire and as a contributor to the New Yorker, Holiday and Fortune magazines, and after fourteen years of operating a prosperous advertising art service, Freed turned to his real love, the fine arts.  From 1960 until his death in 1981, he devoted himself to his painting and to the art world around him. In addition to the time spent working in his studio and exhibiting, he taught drawing and painting, served as president of the Philadelphia Chapter of Artists Equity Association, and from 1979 1981 attended seminars at the Barnes Art Foundation.  He gained international recognition from his year long sojourn in France in 1960, being featured in a lead article in Information Artistique (Paris, 1961) and upon his return, in The American Artist (New York, 1962).  In fact, extensive travel throughout his life brought to Freed's work an extraordinary diversity of subject matter and mood. In the 1930's,  he traveled and sketched in Mexico, later in Haiti.  He journeyed and painted throughout Europe, first in 1933 and then at regular intervals from 1959 1979.  He spent considerable periods of time in France from 1960 1961, in 1967 and again in 1979.  He painted while in Portugal in 1969, 1970, 1971, in Spain, in Israel in 1974, in England in 1979.  Freed worked most exuberantly in the out of doors where the richness of changing landscapes and the customs and century old buildings of his surroundings could find their way onto his canvases.  The European influence of the Old Masters, of the French Impressionists and the early Cubists clearly shows itself in his work. 

Freed has been described in various ways.  John Groth (of Esquire Magazine) called him "the millionth oyster...the one that has a pearl." Groth went on to say: "If you're a fiend for sources, chalk up Degas, Laurencin, and Bellows one part each.  The other fourth is thank god mongrel: the portion of unassignable originality.  At twenty two, that's a large portion." Henry Pitz in The American Artist, described his work as follows: "A native color sense has luxuriated in freedom; a command of pigmented textures keeps every surface alive.  He has absorbed the wiser teachings of modernism and uses them knowingly. ...the forms have a tantalizing freshness as they hover between the abstract and the concrete and nudge the mind to recall something half remembered."  Jack Bookbinder stated that Freed's work "reflects a lifetime of search and experience.  He is equally at home with poetic realism, vigorous semi abstraction and occasional excursions into experimental assemblages and always with a distinctive sense of  color and design.  Using a variety of approaches, his paintings may be witty, happy, solemn  but never casual; they are sincere expressions of his multifaceted interests." 
The work of Maurice Freed is represented in private collections here and abroad.  He exhibited widely in one man and group shows at such places as La Boutique d'Art in Nice (Hotel Negresco), the Newman Contemporary Art Gallery, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, the Woodmere Art Gallery, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Chicago Art Institute and Butler Institute.  He was the recipient of many awards and prizes, the last of which was presented in April 1981, from the Woodmere Art Gallery (outside of Philadelphia, PA) just four months before his death.

Pitz, Henry. February 1962. “Maurice Free, painter.” American Artist.  Pages 42-47 (continued p. 67).

Submitted by Cooley Gallery on behalf of the artist's daughter.

Biography from Joyce Kirschner Fine Arts:
Maurice Freed was primarily an illustrator. He contributed frequently to The New Yorker, Stage, and Esquire.  In the early '30s he became art director for Esquire Magazine and moved to Chicago.

A few years later he moved to Philadelphia where he freelanced and also worked for the Federal Arts Project (part of the WPA).  He continued to work as an illustrator for many years.

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