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 Knud Merrild  (1894 - 1954)

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Lived/Active: California / Denmark      Known for: biomorph-cubist figure and still life, flux painting

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Knud Merrild
from Auction House Records.
Abstraction 444
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Spencer Jon Helfen Fine Arts:
Knud Merrild would spend his entire career fighting convention and seeking the new. Merrild’s work demonstrates an incessant mutation of color and form, offering what he termed “kinetic paintings” of the abstract.  An artist whose work was dominated by the philosophy of change, among Merrild’s key contributions were his “flux” paintings.  By spurting paint onto a fluid surface – a canvas which he would tilt and turn – Merrild allowed chance to take over, letting colors run together and apart as the paint moved, settled and dried.

Merrild was born in Odum, Jutland, Denmark in 1894 and, viewing Cubist art there for the first time at age 19, he vowed to become a modern artist.  Expelled from his arts and crafts school in Copenhagen for refusing to conform to traditional expectations, he also withdrew a year later from Denmark’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, finding it equally stifling.

After studying art in London, Merrild moved to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles in 1923, where he joined the small group of Modernists in Southern California who opposed the Traditionalist and American Scene idioms prevailing at the time.  As one of the first Los Angeles area painters to produce abstract art, Merrild’s flux paintings pioneered the spontaneous abstract improvisation movement years before the arrival of Jackson Pollock, and he quickly gained recognition as the Western United States’ leading abstract artist.

Among Merrild’s numerous one-man shows were those at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1937, the Modern Institute of Art in Beverly Hills in 1948, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (posthumously) in 1965.

In 1952, Merrild suffered a heart attack and virtually ceased working. Unable to afford health care in the U.S., he returned to Denmark, and passed away in Copenhagen in 1954.

Biography from Crocker Art Museum Store:
Printmaker, painter, sculptor, muralist, Knud Merrild was born in Odum, Denmark on May 10, 1894.  From 1912-16, Merrild studied in Copenhagen at the Royal Academy of Fine Art and the Arts & Crafts School.

He immigrated to NYC in 1921.  The winter of 1922-23 was spent on a remote ranch near Taos, NM with writer D. H. Lawrence.  While there, he had his first solo show at the Santa Fe Museum of Art.

Upon settling in Los Angeles in 1923, he became active in the local art scene. His early works were Cubist-inspired,  and in the 1930s he was active in the Post-Surrealist movement in California.

Merrild remained in California until a few months before his death in Copenhagen in 1954.

Member:
American Artists Congress (cofounder, 1936).

Exhibition:
Belmaison Galleries (NYC), 1921; LA Museum of Science, Art & History, 1925; Pasadena Art Inst., 1933; Calif.-Pacific Intl Expo (San Diego), 1935; SFMA, 1935, 1937 (solo); Hollywood Modern Art Gallery, 1935; MOMA, 1936-42; GGIE, 1939; Whitney Museum, 1941; AIC, 1947; Pasadena Museum, 1952 (solo); Long Beach Museum, 1964; LACMA, 1965 (solo).

Collections and Literature
San Diego Museum; Oakland Museum; LACMA; SFMA.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1933; Who's Who in American Art 1936-53; Who's Who in California 1942; Artists of the American West (Samuels); Southern California Artist (Nancy Moure); 100 Years of Calif. Sculpture; Art of California, Nov. 1991.
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.

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