George L. K. Morris (1905 - 1975)
Sophisticated Couple, c. 1946
Watercolor, gouache and graphite with wallpaper collage
13 1/4 x 11 1/4 inches
Signed at lower right: Morris
George Lovett Kingsland Morris studied art and literature at Yale University then went on to study at the Art Students League until 1930, where he was a pupil of John Sloan and Kenneth Hayes Miller. Thereafter Morris studied with Fernand Léger and Amedée Ozenfant at the Académie Moderne in Paris, an experience that profoundly shaped his aesthetic outlook. In Léger, Morris located an ideal embodiment of modernism, an artist whose Cubist-derived compositions retained a strong figurative identity while stretching the formal vocabulary of art.
Along with his wife Suzy Frelinghuysen, Morris divided his time among homes in New York City, the Berkshires, and Paris. The couple’s luxurious lifestyles masked their serious commitment to art and—in the case of Morris—art criticism. In 1937 Morris became the first art critic for the newly restructured Partisan Review, edited by Williams Philips and Philip Rahv, which Morris financed until 1942.
Abhorring the narrative and populist orientation of Social Realist and Regionalist art—which dominated the art market in the 1930s—Morris remained a passionate advocate for American modernism. In the late 1930s he publicly denounced the aesthetic views of several conservative critics who derided abstract art. In addition, he joined a number of artists’ organizations and became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists.
Morris was no longer active as a critic after 1952, but his allegiance to American abstraction never waned. His own painting and sculpture from the early 1930s onwards were defined by geometric stasis and calm, characteristics he sometimes mixed with quirky references to indigenous and popular aspects of American culture. His art’s precise, careful forms and cool linearity recall elements of works by Léger and Gris, but Morris transformed such features, infusing them with his own singularity.
Source: Debra Bricker Balken, The Park Avenue Cubists, 2002.