Campus News

Museum exhibition highlights American painter

John Grabach: Century Man, an exhibition spotlighting the works of the dynamic American painter, will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art until Sept. 16.
The work of Grabach (1880-1981) focuses on varied views of the American city, from neighborhood life to urban centers. He possessed a strong spirit of nationalism and portrayed life at a period in American history that, though difficult due to the Great Depression and World War II, now seems romantic and full of adventure.

This exhibition will highlight drawings, watercolors and paintings, many of which have not been on view for the public in more than 60 years.

“John Grabach’s diverse work reflects the influences of Impressionism, the Ashcan School, abstraction and American scene painting on the career of a single artist,” said Paul Manoguerra, curator of American art at the museum. “The Georgia Museum of Art is pleased to be one of only four venues in the nation to host this important monographic exhibition.”

Grabach was born in Greenfield, Mass., and moved with his family to Newark, N.J., in 1881. Grabach expressed an interest in art at a very early age, using the windows in his house as his first canvas to trace outlines of birds he saw through the glass.

By his early 20s, Grabach already had achieved considerable success for his work, but he found his greatest inspiration when he moved into a studio in New York overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge.

The sometimes bleak, somewhat seamy side of the city fueled his growing interest in urban life as a subject for his paintings. Grabach worked extensively in oil and watercolor, approaching these media with energy and inventiveness. It was in the latter that he would produce ambitious and successful works focused on the urban and industrial settings.

“His work served as a mild expression of social modernism in a time when protest art was on the rise and America was moving in a new direction,” Manoguerra said. “He also produced some large exhibition paintings that provided social commentary on the uncertain times between the two world wars.”

Although Grabach is best known for his urban paintings done in a style reminiscent of the work of George Bellows, he also created a significant body of art inspired by the winter landscape of New England.