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Rolph Scarlett
Untitled

c. 1950

$65,000

About

One of the finest drip paintings we have seen. Never afraid of trying new styles, curious and opinionated, constantly engaged with the world around him, Rolph Scarlett more than once proved to be at the artistic zeitgeist in a career that stretched for more than 75 years. Born in 1889, Scarlett had his first retrospective by 1928. He subscribed fully to the modernist credo. Interviewed at the time, he said: "If a futuristic painting brings the casual gallery patron to an abrupt stop and forces him to spend five minutes in front of the painting, then the ends of modernism have been served," A major proponent of non-objective painting, Scarlett's career and artistic philosophy is closely linked with the early history of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. His work, along with that of Kandinsky, Klee, and German artist Rudolph Bauer formed the core of the Guggenheim's collection--the "Art of Tomorrow." Indeed, the original collection of the Guggenheim contained 66 works by Scarlett. Hila von Rebay, the first director of the Guggenheim, called him "one of the greatest artists of our time." Exposed very early on to the work of Paul Klee through a chance meeting in Europe with the artist himself, Scarlett took up abstraction with a fervor that never diminished during his long and impressive career. To create something that had never existed before: this was Scarlett's great cause. He would become known for his geometrics, his surrealist works, Indian Field paintings, drip works and AbEx works. In his abstraction, Scarlett avoided any reference to the outside world and believed that nonobjective painting was an act, in his words, of "pure creation." In 1937, after permanently settling in New York, Scarlett became acquainted with the artist and curator Hilla Rebay, the first director of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (renamed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1952). From 1940 to 1946, Scarlett served as the museum's chief lecturer, giving Sunday afternoon talks on art. Through Rebay, Scarlett became acquainted with the nonobjective works of Rudolf Bauer and Vasily Kandinsky and further refined his abstract style. In 1949 he had a very well received solo show at the Jacques Seligmann Gallery, reviewed very favorably in The New York Times: "The impression made by these paintings is one of originality and strength." He was also included in a juried show "American Painting Today" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1950 and in the Whitney Annual of 1951 and 1952. The curator for the Whitney show in fact bypassed a selection of Scarlett's careful geometrics in favor of a new "lyrical" drip painting-one which he describes as having had "a helluva good time" making. Personality disputes after the death of Solomon Guggenheim sent Scarlett to a self-imposed exile in Woodstock, NY, where he would remain the rest of his life. Scarlett's work can be found in the collections of the Guggenheim, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the de Young Museum, the Montreal Museum and the Smithsonian.'

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