Lawrence Fine Art to Represent Estate of Ben Wilson

March 20, 2018

 Lawrence Fine Art is pleased to announce that it will represent the work of American artist Ben Wilson in conjunction with Montclair State University.

Like many of his compatriots in the New York School, Ben Wilson (1913-2001) began his career painting figuratively before transitioning to abstraction after WWII (and somewhat later than his compatriots.) His early work had a strong political component--one critic noted his "strong social protest." Later, he began to paint for the WPA Project.

He described his early years this way:

"My early figurative days are long gone. They were necessary then for me and for the (WPA) project. I painted the agony and anger of the times. Not very pretty. I recorded what was going on both in this country and overseas. The degradation that was Europe, the hopelessness that was America. But I couldn't stay in that vein...."

After the war, Wilson, born in Europe and a Jew, was devastated by what had happened. His work became dark, powerful yes, but difficult to look at.

At first, Wilson resisted the move to abstraction and abstract expressionism after the war.  He was highly uncomfortable with the egoism inherent to this movement. A sojourn in Paris in the early 50s changed his perspective. His work had always drawn from European roots, especially the cubists.  Indeed, the cubism of Picasso, Braque and Leger, and their influence, never left him. Ultimately, it could be said that Wilson arrived at Abstract Expressionism, but from a different direction.

A critic in the Princeton Review in 1987 explains: "Ben Wilson's canvases, while still within the abstract expressionist mode, retain echoes of Picasso, Braque and even mechanistic elements of Fernand Leger." Another critic writes: "The expressive abstractions of Ben Wilson belong among the best work created by New York artists in the 20th century; but they stand outside the critical labels applied to Abstract Expressionism..."

Ben Wilson had more than 30 one-man shows during his lifetime, first starting to show in the early 1930s. As early as 1942, he was singled out by the New York Times art critic Edward Alden Jewell as a "discovery." He exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum (1934), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Corcoran, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, among others. His work is in the collection of the Newark Museum and the Montclair Museum.

Wilson has recently been "rediscovered" and was the subject of a one-man show at Quogue Gallery in 2017 and Montclair State University has published a catalogue of his life and work. Lawrence Fine Art wishes to thank the University for making this work available.

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