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 Maxwell B. (M.H.) Starr  (1901 - 1966)

About: Maxwell B. (M.H.) Starr


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Lived/Active: New York / Russian Federation      Known for: figure, landscape, mural, sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was supplied by his niece, Barbara Simmons:

In the beginning of his career, Max made many large portraits of wealthy and influential people like bankers who financed much of his career at that time.  During the Depression, he did most of the murals through the WPA art projects, depicting cotton pickers for southern post offices, as well as creating his more famous Brooklyn Technical High School murals.

During World War II he worked on camouflage effects presumably for the army.  All through this time he continued to produce his own painting and sculpting; having one-man shows, primarily in NYC, many of which were sold out during the invitational phase before the official opening. 

In the late forties he was asked to exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, which he did, selling all but one oil. While there, a well - known producer hired him to evaluate the art collection he had given to the museum.  He was fearful that the paintings had been replaced by forgeries.  Maxwell spent many months authenticating the art collection and assured the donor that they were in fact genuine. He returned to NYC pretty much convinced that Los Angeles was still a desert as to the level of art appreciation and production.

Maxwell B. Starr won, but never received the prizes, of both the  Prix de Rome and the
Guggenheim.  In the first event contestants had to be citizens of the United States.  Since he had arrived in the United States at a young age, he asked his father if he was a citizen.  His father replied in the affirmative and Maxwell entered the Prix de Rome and won first place only to lose the prize when his background was checked for a passport.

In the case of the Guggenheim, many years later, the finalists were sent into separate, rooms and asked to create one more oil painting  from which the winner would be chosen.  A woman was declared the winner with Maxwell coming in second place.  When the winner and her painting appeared in the New York Times someone came forward and accused the winner of copying a painting that had been done by someone else, one that was not original  to the winner.  The prize was taken away from her and was not awarded that year.

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