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 George Joseph McNeil  (1908 - 1995)

About: George Joseph McNeil
 

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: figurative expression, graphics

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
George McNeil was born on February 22,1908 in New York City. He studied at the Pratt Institute, the Art Students League, the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Arts and Columbia University. In 1935 he joined the Federal Art Project of the WPA and in 1936 he helped form the American Abstract Artists. He was known for his vibrant colors and energetic compositions.

McNeil grew up in the East New York section of Brooklyn in a working-class family of Irish descent that neither encouraged nor discouraged his interest in art. He took art classes Saturday mornings at the Brooklyn Museum and by the time he was sixteen, he was sold on modern art. Later he won a New York Art League scholarship to Pratt; he went there from 1927 to 1929. He met Dora who was only sixteen at the time and they were married in 1936.

McNeil and his wife, Dora, who had been a graphic designer, lived in an apartment over his studio near the Pratt Institute. He worked in the ground-floor studio about six hours a day. The McNeils had two children.

In 1936, McNeil and a group of others formed the American Abstract Artists. They painted in a geometric cubist style; at the same time McNeil was beginning to create a different expressionist kind of art. He painted full time, but World War II broke out and McNeil spent time in the Navy. When he got out, in 1946, his first regular job was teaching at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

In the 1960s he turned away from pure abstraction, inserting roughly rendered figures in his paintings. The high color and the painterliness of the abstractscapes are sustained in McNeil's figurative work of the late 1970s and early 1980s. As soon as the figure appeared in McNeil's work, so did his work's strong sexual content. Most of his 1960s figures are female, exuberantly so.

He remained prolific until his death while simultaneously pursuing a teaching career that lasted until 1981 and included the directorship of the Pratt Institute's evening program. McNeil died in 1995.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Obituaries in ARTnews, March 1995
From the internet, AskART.com
Heroes of Myth and of the Morning After by Judith Higgins in ARTnews, September 1986


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography, courtesy of Rick Leon, is from http://www.figurativeexpressionism.com/mcneil.htm


George McNeil was born in New York City on February 22, 1908 and studied at the Pratt Institute, the Art Students League, the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Arts and Columbia University.  He has been an original and indefatigable presence in the New York art community for decades.

He has earned awards and fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the National Council on the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Selected public collections include the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institute and the Whitney Museum.

One of the last shows of George McNeil's work was at the New York Studio School in 1993. It was titled "The Ultimate Illogical Fling".  He was then eighty-five years old.


Biography from ACME Fine Art:
George McNeil was a New York School artist and also an art teachers who had a six-decade career.  In 1939, he was only one of five non-objective painters in the New York World’s Fair Show. Today, his work is in many collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

McNeil's work evolved from the post cubist abstract expressionism of his Hofmann School days, through the figurative expressionism of his mid-career during the 1960’s and 1970’s, to emerge as full-blown neo-expressionism in the 1980’s and 1990’s. 

In a statement prepared for a solo exhibition of his work at the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1985 McNeil commented, “I have been told that my abstract landscapes and my beat up figures make me a part of the New Expressionist movement.  This disconcerts me because I have been an old expressionist for so long that it isn’t funny.  I am like Moliere’s Monsieur Jourdain who was surprised to learn he had been speaking prose all his life.”

Education:
Pratt Institute
Art Students League
Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts
Columbia University

Teaching Positions:
University of Wyoming, 1946-1948
Pratt Institute, 1948-1980
University of California, Berkeley, 1956-1957
New York Studio School, 1966-1980

Awards and Fellowships:
Ford Foundation Purchase, 1963
National Council on the Arts, 1967
Guggenheim Fellow, 1969
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, 1982
Tamarind Artist in Residence, 1971, 1975-1976, 1984
Avery Chair, Bard College, Blum Institute, 1985

Exhibitions:
New York Worlds Fair, 1939
Art Institute of Chicago, 1947
Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 1950, 1990
Museum of Modern Art, 1951, 1969, 1985
9th Street Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, 1951
Whitney Museum of American Art, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1968, 1984
Stable Gallery, 1954-1955
De Young Museum, San Francisco, (solo), 1956
Carnegie Institute, 1958
Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, 1960
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1961
Cleveland Museum of Art, 1961
Yale University Art Gallery, 1961
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1962, 1966
Wadsworth Atheneum, 1962
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1963
Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas, Austin, 1964, 1966, 1968
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, 1966
Des Moines Art Center, 1969
Brooklyn Museum, 1972, 1987
University Art Gallery, University of New Mexico, 1977
Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, 1982 (solo)
Jorgensen Gallery, University of Connecticut, Storrs, 1982 (solo)
Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, 1983
Artists’ Choice Museum, New York, 1984 (solo)
State University of New York, Binghamton, 1985 (solo)
Kansas City Art Institute, 1985
Blum Institute, Bard College, 1985
University of Bridgeport, Carlson Gallery, 1986 (solo)
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1986
Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA, 1988
University of Hartford, 1989 (solo)
Montclair Art Museum, 1991 (solo)
Smith College Museum of Art, 1991
Tuscon Museum of Art, 1992
New York Studio School, 1993 (solo)
Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, 1993
Hyde Collection Art Museum, 1999 (solo)
North Dakota Museum of Art, 1999 (solo)

Member:
American Abstract Artists (founding member)
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters

Collections:
Whitney Museum of American Art
Museum of Modern Art
Smithsonian Institution
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Provincetown Art Association and Museum
Smith College Art Museum
Mead Art Museum, Amherst College
Michener Collection, University of Texas, Austin
University of Michigan Art Museum
New York University, Gray Art Gallery
Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale
Newark Museum of Art
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina
Oklahoma City Art Museum
University of New Mexico Art Museum
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Neuberger Museum, SUNY Purchase
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England


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