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 Fred Gardner  (1880 - 1952)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: modernist-leaning landscape, genre

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Ad Code: 3
Fred Gardner
from Auction House Records.
The Caller
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Addison Rowe Fine Art:
Fred Gardner was born on April 16, 1880 on the family farm in Jamesville, just south of Syracuse, N.Y. He graduated in the first class of the new Jamesville High School in 1899.

In 1902 Fred Gardner moved to New York where he entered the Pratt Institute's Architectural School in Brooklyn. Upon graduation he became a registered architect and worked briefly for a Long Island Architectural firm before starting his lifelong career as an architectural planner and designer for the New York City Board of Transportation. He was hired in 1907 and spent 34 years working in the architectural design office that planned much of the city?s expanding subway system.

From 1908 to 1933, Fred also taught evening art classes in architectural drawing at the Brooklyn Technical Evening School and other institutions. In one of his evening classes he met Adelaide Morris, a Brooklyn girl eighteen years his junior, whom he later married and who participated in many of the exhibitions where Gardner showed. At his recommendation Adelaide got a job as a topographic draftswoman with the Board of Transportation (the only woman in an office of 90 men), but because of the strict rules against employing husband and wife in the same municipal office, they either delayed their marriage or kept it quiet for years.

Feeling the need for further art instruction, Gardner enrolled in evening classes at the Art Students League in 1917. There he was fortunate enough to come under the influence of John Sloan. John Sloan was a great admirer of Gardner's work proposing him for the Shilling Fund prize, which carried with it the acquisition of Gardner's "Ben Bolt" by the Brooklyn Museum.

It was through Gardner's association with Sloan the he became involved with the Society of Independent Artists in 1920. Gardner liked its democratic policies and being a member allowed him to show his work every year. Within three years Gardner proved himself to be a very valuable member and was elected to serve as one of the directors in 1923, together with George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Robert Henri, Alfred H. Maurer, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Marguerite Zorach, among others. He served as a director until 1928 when he was elected vice president. In 1930, he also became assistant treasurer and served in these rolls until 1932.

Gardner and Sloan remained close throughout most of the 20's, 30's and 40's. In fact, Gardner spent some time traveling and painting in the Southwest in the early part of the 1920's thanks to the insistence of Sloan. Gardner was recognized for his contributions in Sloan's book, "Gist of Art", published in 1939.

In 1941, Gardner and Adelaide retired from the Board of Transportation and relocated to Syracuse, New York, where they established themselves with the Syracuse art community by joining the Associated Artist of Syracuse and the Syracuse Printmakers Society. Gardner won prizes at juried shows at the Syracuse Museum form 1943-46 and other local art societies and museums.

They continued to paint and travel throughout Florida, New England, Canada and New Mexico.

Gardner died on November 27. 1952 in Syracuse. A major retrospective was organized by the Syracuse Museum of Art in 1954. One-man shows were organized in Houston and Austin, Texas in 1979 and 1980. One of his works was included in the 1983 exhibition, "The Immortal Eight and Its Influence", giving him a firm place in the history of early twentieth century American painting. The most recent retrospective exhibitions were held at the Syracuse Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art in 1985-1986. Unfortunately, in 1989, the bulk of his estate was tragically destroyed in a fire.

Gardner's painting style was truly his own, he took elements of color and form from the School of Paris and put it into a modern 20th century style. He used cubistically-derived forms to create figures composed of various planes. He might be put in the category of a figure painter; however, at closer look one realizes that his figures are only the element around which he begins to create a work of art, using angles, shapes, and unusual visual perspectives.

Reference: Exhibition catalogue: Fred Gardner (1880-1952), by Hedy B. Landman, introduction by David M. Sokol, published by The Rowe Company Fine Art, Chicago, IL. 1985. Museum Exhibition: Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, N.Y., June 21-September 8. 1985, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama, May 6-June 15, 1986.

*My research and involvement with the heirs of the estate lead to the completion of this catalogue and show of Fred Gardner's work, along with my then husband, Harold Rowe. We hired Hedy Landman as the art historian to write the catalogue and David Sokol to add the introduction. In 1989 our gallery was destroyed by a major fire in Chicago and Fred's estate was destroyed. Unfortunately, most of the art reproduced in the catalogue was included in the fire.

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