Dynamic and complex, this is a colorful oil on canvas abstract, 40" by 18" (vertical format), 45" by 23" in the wood frame, titled on the stretcher "Figure in Movement" and signed nearby on the reverse canvas (a little hard to see in the photos). but, it has a significant, jagged unrepaired rip in it. I imagine the painting dates from the late 40's or the 1950's. It and another Schanker painting I will be listing came from the Marina del Rey (near Santa Monica) estate of Alice Himmelstein, daughter of a Ted Himmelstein who apparently knew a number of New York mid century artists. Signed prints by Ben Shahn and his wife also came from that estate. Schanker has a long and interesting biography. Born in the Bronx of Jewish Orthodox parentage, he studied at the Art Students League and Cooper Union, sharing a cold water flat with the Soyer brothers, Chaim Gross, and Adolph Gottlieb. Acting like the youth he was, in the early 1920's he headed west, working as a wheat thresher, following circuses, and riding the rails. By 1924 he was back in New York City, the likes of Barnett Newman, Milton Avery, and Mark Rothko his studio mates. In the early 30's Schanker headed to Europe, studying at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. The European art that he observed pushed him into the direction of Cubism. Schanker worked for the WPA in the thirties, and by 1936 his work was exhibited at the Whitney Museum. While his work was in the exhibit, he was actually outside, as one of "The Whitney Ten", protesting the museum's unwillingness to show abstract art. The group including among its members Ben-Zion, Rothko, and Gottlieb. From about this period on, Schanker's name was included in many surveys of modern American art, such as Martha Cheney's "Modern Art in America" of 1939 and Louis Lozowick's "One Hundred Contemporary American Jewish Painters and Sculptors". From 1940 to 1960 Schanker taught at the New School of Social Research, and in 1964, he was teaching at Bard College. Late in life, he moved between New York City, the Hamptons/Sag Harbor, and Stamford, Connecticut. Schanker's contributions to art history in 20th century America seems to be relatively unrecognized, from the standpoint of auction prices. One especially fine example of 1933 recently brought (only) $10,000 at Christie's---and, at that, a high water mark at auction, obviously not in the league of the names with which he associated. Schanker's legacy will be that he led a break away from Regionalism to explore abstract forms and abstract expressionism, but he himself said that his works were always derived from natural forms. He was one of the earliest woodcut artists to explore abstraction, and indeed his prints can bring as much or more than some drawings and minor paintings. A former owner of the Mercury Gallery said long ago that he was aware that the great Rothko himself had a grudging respect for Schanker, though he, Rothko, was not sure as to where the latter was going with his art. It remains to be seen how Schanker will be recorded by art history. CONDITION: ***The work is as it came from the Himmelstein estate. There is a large 5" by 8" rip in the canvas at top center that will need to be fixed. All edges match up. Otherwise the painting is in excellent condition. .
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