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 James McCray  (1912 - 1993)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: abstract geometric

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Abstract Landscape
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
James McCray was born in Niles, CA on Oct. 1, 1912. McCray received a scholarship for further study in Pennsylvania at the Barnes Foundation after graduating from UC Berkeley (M.A.).

At UC he was greatly influenced by his teachers Worth Ryder and John Haley. His teaching experience included UC Berkeley (1935-40, 1947-80), California School of Fine Arts (San Francisco) (1940-46), San Francisco Museum of (modern) Art (1941-43), and Santa Barbara College (1951).

He acted as juror for many northern California shows before his death in Walnut Creek, CA on Jan. 12, 1993. An abstract painter, his early works were geometric and later evolved into lyrical abstraction.

Exh: Oakland Art Gallery, 1934; Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939; San Francisco Art Association, 1939; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1945, 1948, 1950; Art Institute of Chicago, 1947; Art Institute of Chicago, 1948; Univ. of NM, 1949 (solo); San Francisco Museum of (modern) Art, 1950; Metropolitan Museum, 1952; Whitney Museum, 1951; California School of Fine Arts (San Francisco), 1955 (solo); Berkeley Art & Garden Center, 1968 (solo).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Interview with the artist or his/her family; Art News, Sept. 1949.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Carlson Gallery:
JAMES MCCRAY - Painter - Teacher 1912 - 1993

EDUCATION & TEACHING University of California Berkeley, B.A. 1934, M.A. 1935; U.C. Berkeley, 1936.  Teaching assistant to Worth Ryder & John Haley.  Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA.  Grant to study esthetics, travel & study in Europe, 1937 - 1939; U.C. Berkeley, 1939 - 1940.  Teaching assistant; California School of Fine Arts, 1941 - 1946. 

When appointed to the faculty of CSFA to introduce a new spirit of modernism into its conservative program, McCray arranged the appointment of Douglas McAgy, a colleague at the Barnes Foundation, to the Board of Directors of CSFA.  Under McCray's & McAgy's influence the faculty of CSFA ultimately included Elmer Bishoff, Clyfford Still and David Park.  1947 - 1982 U.C Berkeley, Teacher.  Professor emeritus, 1982.

EXHIBITIONS Oakland Art Gallery, 1935; Golden Gate International Exposition, 1940; San Francisco Art Association Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1937 -57th, 1940 - 60th, 1942 - 62nd, 1945 - 65th - awarded Anne Bremer Memorial Prize for abstract painting titled 'Reticulation'. Alfred Frankenstein, the noted art critic wrote of this work, "McCray has produced the most original and interesting new development in painting that has manifested itself on this coast in my time'., 1949 - 68th, 1950 - 69th, 1955 - 74th, 1956 - 75th, 1957 - 76th, 1959 - 78th, 1960 - 79th, 1961 - 80th; Art Institute of Chicago, 1948, Fifty- Eighth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Abstract and Surreal American Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of Art, New York; Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington D.C.; Third - Fifth Winter Invitationals, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1962, 1963, 1964; Salon de Realite, Paris; Institute of Creative Arts Grant, 1965 - 66.

EVOLUTION OF STYLE McCray's education encompasses both European and American modernist movements.  While at the Barnes Foundation his strongest influence was the geometric abstraction of Mondrian.  By 1945, McCray's geometric abstraction won the coveted Anne Bremer prize and another was exhibited in the Abstract & Surrealist American Art exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1948.  By 1950 McCray turned away from geometry and followed a path toward color field minimalist abstraction, as did Reinhardt, who was also influenced by Mondrian and whom he met in 1949 when Reinhardt taught summer school at the California School of Fine Arts.

McCray evolved into colorful gestural paintings by the mid to late 1950's and in the early 1960's his energy flowed into a series of circular colorful hard edge geometric abstractions influenced by the Rythme series of Sonia and Robert Delaunay he had seen while studying aesthetics in Europe during 1938-39 on his Barnes Foundation grant.

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