This volume centres on Herbert Katzman’s primary subject—New York City
Herbert Katzman (1923–2004) produced some of the most lyrical, contemporary representations of New York City, his adopted home from 1950 onward. Largely eschewing the prevailing mid-20th-century trend toward abstraction, this Chicago born painter first came to public notice in 1952 when Dorothy C. Miller included him in her seminal Museum of Modern Art exhibition Fifteen Americans. That exhibition sought to show the diversity of mid-century American art, and Katzman’s work, along with that of other representational painters, was shown next to artworks by many of the leading Abstract Expressionists, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. The exhibition was a promising start to the career of the 29-year-old painter, who was represented by the prestigious Downtown Gallery.While the reputations of the Abstract Expressionists flourished, largely eclipsing artists such as Katzman, the latter continued to develop as an independent expressionist. He became an influential teacher at New York’s School of Visual Arts and exhibited regularly throughout his life, both in museum shows and commercially at Terry Dintenfass gallery.
Three essays and an illustrated chronology of the artist’s life consider Katzman’s career and how his art returned repeatedly to the city’s familiar bridges, landmarks, waterways, and skyline, atmospherically rendered in sunlight, mist, or rain. With its focus on mood and muted colour harmonies, much of Katzman’s work evokes the Tonalism of Whistler and members of the Hudson River School—a movement with its roots in European Romanticism. Other works, with their emphasis on the inky blackness of the harbour at night, or the brilliant reds, oranges, and purples of New York at sunrise and sunset, are more redolent of the canvases of Turner.
The catalogue presents over 110 colour plates illustrating the full range of Katzman’s paintings and works on paper. The latter include both his earlier drawings done on the large scale normally associated with works on canvas, as well as an important group of palm-sized drawings produced at the end of the artist’s life, when illness confined him to his studio. Never published before, these show, in extraordinary detail and with all the power of his larger drawings, the view from Katzman’s studio overlooking the Hudson River, toward the former site of the World Trade Center.
Julia Blaut is curator for Research at Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and was guest curator of Glorious Sky: Herbert Katzman’s New York at the Museum of the City of New York and the editor of the accompanying catalogue. She has curated and published in the field of post–World War II American art.
Alison Lurie is a well known novelist and author of Imaginary Friends (1967) and The War Between the Tates (1974). She is Frederic J. Whiton Professor of American Literature Emerita at Cornell University and has received numerous honorary degrees and awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for her novel Foreign Affairs (1984).
Katherine E. Manthorne is professor of Art History at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) and has published broadly on art of the 19th and 20th centuries. She is the co-author of The Rockies and the Alps (2018).
Jillian E. Russo is director of Exhibitions at Hollis Taggart, a consultant, Kaish Family Art Project, and and was curator at The Graduate Center, CUNY, specialising in post–World War II American art.
Table of Contents
- Remembering Herbert Katzman by Alison Lurie
- Herbert Katzman and the Museum of Modern Art ’s Fifteen Americans: Figuration and Abstraction, New York in the 1950s by Julia Blaut
- Metropolis as Muse by Katherine E. Manthorne
- Chronology by Jillian E. Russo
- Sources and Sketches
- Exhibition History and Selected Reviews by Jillian E. Russo