John Storrs


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Sculptor, printmaker, and painter. Among American sculptors, he remains conspicuous for early experiments in abstraction. Attracted to the fragmented planes and structural tensions of cubism, he became particularly known for architectural sculpture featuring stylized imagery. In this context, his work anticipated and then contributed to art deco's streamlining, geometric ornamentation, and chic contemporaneity. A Chicago native, John Henry Bradley Storrs studied and traveled abroad for a year before enrolling in 1908 in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he studied with Lorado Taft. He continued his training at Boston's School of Museum of Fine Arts and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, notably under Charles Grafly. Subsequently in Paris he studied with Paul Bartlett and in 1912 entered Rodin's studio, where his style emulated the master's and he became a favorite. At the same time, on his European travels, Storrs admired the clarity of Greek and Egyptian sculpture, which continued to inform his work for many years. With continued exposure to new art, over time he began to absorb the cubist idiom and before 1920 had developed the fundamentals of his mature style. His best-known architectural decoration, the thirty-three-foot aluminum figure of the goddess Ceres (1930) adorning the apex of Chicago's Board of Trade, synthesizes Storrs's interests in harmonious form and the machine age. Many of his freestanding abstract sculptures display an architectonic approach, presenting geometric blocks enlivened with restricted surface decoration. The marble Forms in Space #1 (Whitney Museum, 1924), which rises more than seven feet tall, austerely communes with both International Style skyscrapers and minimalist sculpture. He also experimented with constructivist-inspired welded fabrication and with space as a dynamic compositional element. Some of his industrially inspired pieces bear resemblances to precisionism. Although he maintained an artistic presence in the United States through exhibitions, commissions, and frequent sojourns in Chicago (during his most productive years, he resided there for part of each year), Storrs retained his residency in France, where he died. While volunteering during World War II as a driver for the Red Cross, he was arrested by German forces. Exhausted by the experience of being held prisoner of war, although he eventually returned to his art, his best work had already been accomplished.

Subjects: Art.

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