De Hirsh Margules (1899-1965)

De Hirsh Margules (1899-1965)

Defined as an Abstract Realist, Margules used rich, saturated colors and bold linework to create compositions that were ground in reality, yet simultaneously distorted and abstracted from it. His distinctly modern approach to landscape painting resulted from his intellectual interest in the passage of time, and he later went on to coin the term “Time Painting” to describe his artistic exploration of the concept.

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Just before the turn of the century, De Hirsh Margules was born in Jasse, Romania, and soon after, his family emigrated and moved to New York City. There, the future artist was exposed to the fine arts at a young age: his father was a playwright and director in the Yiddish theater and his mother, an actress. Perhaps as a result of his artistic upbringing, Margules’ training was multifaceted. He studied briefly with Western American artist Edwin Randby while in Pennsylvania but found more significant teachings in the knowledge of his neighbor, Cubist artist (Benjamin) Benno Greenstein. From 1919 to 1921, Margules attended the New York Evening School of Art, where he studied period architecture, design, and decoration, and the following year he embarked on a twenty-year career as a night police reporter for the City News Association of New York. This position afforded him the opportunity to hone his artistic practice during the day, as he continued his studies with Myron Lechay. In 1927, Margules took a temporary leave from his position at the City News Association and relocated to Paris, studying at the Louvre, and later traveling throughout France and Tunis, Africa.

Margules returned to New York City in 1929, at which point he met Alfred Stieglitz and formed an acquaintance with the famed photographer and dealer that would prove significant for the rest of the younger artist’s career. Stieglitz became a close advisor and friend to Margules, introducing him to leading artists in the city including Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Paul Rosenfeld, and John Marin.

In 1936, with support from Stieglitz, Margules established a small gallery at 43 West 8th Street named “Another Place.” At the gallery, he mounted fourteen solo exhibitions and invited peers, such as Abstract Impressionist James Lechay, to showcase their work.

In 1951, Elaine de Kooning wrote a feature on Margules published by ARTnews Magazine in which she claimed that Margules was “widely recognized as one of the most gifted and erudite watercolorists in the country.”[1] Held in high regard by his artistic contemporaries, Margules was similarly respected by private collectors and museums across the country, and exhibited during his career at numerous venues including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Today, his paintings can be found in multiple public collections, such as the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, and the Walker Art Center in Liverpool, England.

[1] Elaine de Kooning, “Margules Paints a Picture,” Art News, vol. 50, no. 8, December 1951, p. 55

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