Carl Holty


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Painter. Devoted throughout his career to abstraction, Carl Robert Holty arrived with his family in Milwaukee only months after his birth in Freiburg, Germany. In 1919 he began his training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but the following year he moved to New York to work at the National Academy of Design until 1921. In 1926 he studied at Hans Hofmann's school in Munich and afterward remained abroad for a decade, traveling widely in Europe and North Africa. In the early 1930s, he worked in Paris, incorporating into his art influences from the biomorphic abstraction of Kandinsky, Miró, and Jean Arp, as well as Mondrian's geometric discipline. Settling permanently in New York upon his return, he numbered among the founding members of the American Abstract Artists. He taught at Brooklyn College from 1956 until three years before his death. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Holty worked primarily with flat, precisely delineated geometric and organic shapes arranged in dynamic compositions based on cubist structure. Notably, these paintings employ lines as independent compositional elements as well as edges, and they offer unusual and sophisticated color combinations, which often feature warm oranges, reds, and pinks against white backgrounds. In Orange and Gold (Whitney Museum, 1942), vigorous, hard lines whip across the surface, suggesting gestural motions and knitting together the composition's spatial ambiguities. Sometimes Holty's titles suggest the subject matter in which his abstractions originated, while at other times representational elements themselves appear in an abstract context, as in the still life Flowers (Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, 1947). In the 1950s Holty's work evolved through a more geometric phase toward the style of his later career. In these works of about the last fifteen years of his life, fluid washes intermingle with more disciplined forms in paintings that continued to reflect his expertise as a colorist. With Romare Bearden, Holty wrote The Painter's Mind (1969).

Subjects: Art.

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