Albert Urban New York (1909-59)
TWO WORKS: GREEN STILL LIFE and SPRINGTIME
color screenprint, framed, unsigned
paper sizes: H14" W9 3/4" (2pcs)
Provenance: From the estate of the artist as indicated by estate stamp on verso of each.
Other Notes: Born in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany on July 22, 1909, Albert Urban began his studies of art at the Frankfurt Kunstshule, where he was the pupil of Max Beckmann and Willi Baumeister. His first solo exhibition was mounted at the Schneider Galleries in Frankfurt when he was just nineteen. After graduating, he became the assistant instructor at the academy. Urban was one of many modern artists condemned by the Nazis, and his work was confiscated and included in the Degenerate Art exhibition that opened in Munich in July 1937. With Hitler in power, the artist was forbidden to paint and eventually exiled from Germany. After almost a year in London, he came to the United States in 1940.
Urban's expressive paintings of the early 1940s reflected influences not only of Beckmann and the Expressionists, but of Rouault and Braque as well. They were generally figural compositions, with heavy, abstracted forms placed before diaphanous scrims of muted colors. From 1941 to 1948 the artist had five solo exhibitions in New York and Philadelphia. He was recognized as a virtuosic technician: "a painter's painter, whose brilliant color, vibrant forms, swiftly spontaneous design, and general technical inventiveness must win the respect of all informed scholars of painting." In 1942 he was already at work on a series of four-and-five-color serigraphs. These were small prints, conceived to be affordable. The artist's interest and facility in serigraphy were complemented by those of his wife Reva, who used the process to reproduce the paintings of modern artists ranging from Claude Monet to Georgia O'Keeffe. In Greenwich Village, the couple ran a gallery where these reproductive prints were sold alongside Albert Urban's original serigraphs.
Urban's silkscreens of the 1950s developed from figural compositions of theatrical subjects into larger, flatter abstractions in which spare, delicate calligraphic lines floated before fields of color. Between 1948 and 1958, although he continued to produce color prints, the artist secreted himself in his studio, refusing to share his paintings with anyone but his closest friends. A one-man exhibition at the Zabriske gallery in 1958 revealed Urban's large, abstract paintings with elementary, centrifugal compositions of a single hue.
After his untimely death in New York on April 4, 1959, Urban's work was reevaluated and deemed significant. His paintings were featured in two major exhibitions, Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art and American Abstract Expressionists and Imagists at the Guggenheim Museum.