Kurt Seligmann – ‘Untitled’


Artist: Kurt Seligmann
Title: Untitled
Medium: Etching
Date: 1940
Dimensions: Image Size 11 inches x 8 inches, Frame Size 18 inches x 14 inches
Provenance: James Pongrass Collection, Pelham von Stoffler Collection - Lake Forest Il., The Village Paint Shop - Lake Forest. Il

Born in Basel in 1900, the son of a furniture department store owner, his parents were not in favor of Seligmann's artistic aspirations but eventually relented. After studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Geneva and spending several years working in his father's business in Basel, Seligmann left for Paris where he met with his friends from Geneva, sculptor Alberto Giacometti and art critic Pierre Courthion. During this time, he also met Ivy Langton.[1] Through Giacometti he met Hans Arp and Jean Hélion, who admired his sinister bio-morphic paintings and invited him to join their group, Abstraction-Creation Art Non-Figuratif.

In the mid-1930s his work began to take on a more baroque aspect, as he animated the prancing figures in his paintings and etchings with festoons of ribbons, drapery, and heraldic paraphernalia. Around 1935, Seligmann met and married Arlette Paraf, granddaughter of the founder of the Wildenstein Gallery. Together they traveled extensively, first around the world during a year-long honey-moon trip in 1936 and then to North America and British Columbia in 1938, to explore American ethnographic art. In 1937, Seligmann was accepted as a member of the Surrealist group in Paris by André Breton, who collected his work and included him in Surrealist exhibitions.

At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Seligmann arrived in New York for an exhibition of his work at the Karl Nierendorf Gallery. Once there, however, with Surrealist artists being targeted by Nazis, he began to aid those in France and bring them to safety. The correspondence he maintained during this period is preserved in a collection at the Beinicke Rare Book Library at Yale University.

Seligmann's art continued to evolve and reached maturity during the 1940s in the United States. Beginning in 1940, he and Arlette lived at the Beaux Arts Building at Fortieth Street in Manhattan, and later they acquired a farm north of the city in the hamlet of Sugar Loaf, New York (in Orange County). Seligmann befriended many American artists as well as the art historian, Meyer Schapiro. With Schapiro as author, in 1944 he produced a limited edition set of six etchings illustrating the Myth of Oedipus. In 1948, a book called The History of Magic was published under his name by Pantheon Books. After the war, his work began to be exhibited widely and acquired by museums throughout the United States and Europe.

Seligmann taught at various colleges in New York City, particularly at Brooklyn College, from which he retired in 1958. The changing nature of the New York art world, as it embraced Abstract Expressionism, caused his work to be relegated to art history and perceived as passé. Due to illness, he gave up his Manhattan apartment and retired to his farm, where he died of an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound in January 1962. (Ref. Wikipedia)