Morris Louis

Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1912, Morris Louis would go on to establish a reputation as one of America’s premier Abstract Expressionists.   He began his art education in 1929, attending classes at the Maryland Institute of Fine and Applied Arts on a four year scholarship he had earned when he was only 15 years old.  He left the Institute in 1933 prior to finishing his classes, and over the next couple of years held various odd jobs to support himself.  He continued to paint in his free time, however, and in 1935 he was elected president of the Baltimore Artist’s Association.  He moved to New York City in 1936, finding work with the WPA Federal Art Project as an easel painter.  Throughout this period of time, Louis also participated in the workshops of David Alfaro Siqueiros.  Louis returned to Baltimore in 1940, and in 1947 he was married to Marcella Siegel.  Between the end of the 1940′s and the beginning of the 1950′s he participated in multiple local exhibitions, accruing great influence with the area artists.

In 1952, Louis and his wife moved to the Washington, D.C. area.  There Louis met Kenneth Noland, from whose experience and contacts Louis would greatly benefit.  Together, they traveled to New York in 1953, where Noland introduced Louis to influential art critic Clement Greenberg.  Through Greenberg, they met painter Helen Frankenthaler.  Frankenthaler used a technique in which she stained colors into the canvas.  Her 1952 painting, Mountains and Sea, was particularly inspiring to Louis.  Upon returning from the trip, he began experimenting with this style in his own work, culminating in his Veil series.  Following the completion of his first Veil series in 1954, Louis spent the next three years experimenting with a more gestural and aggressive style, although the experience left him less than satisfied.  Of the roughly three hundred paintings produced during this period, Louis destroyed almost all of them, leaving less than ten.  In 1957 he would go back to the technique he had used prior, completing five additional Veil series between 1958 and 1959.

In the following years Louis continued to paint, most notably with his Unfurled and Stripes series, both of which featured parallel lines of vibrant alternating colors. In the summer of 1962, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Following surgery to remove one of his lungs, he was no longer able to paint.  Morris Louis died in September of 1962.

Collections Include:
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan
Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York
Allen Art Museum at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Harvard University Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, California
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina
Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

1912 – Morris Louis Bernstein born in Baltimore, Maryland
1929 – Begins classes at Maryland Institute of Fine and Applied Arts
1936 – Moves to New York, New York
1938 – Legally drops last name, becoming Morris Louis
1940 – Returns to Baltimore
1947 – Marries Marcella Siegel
1952 – Moves to Washington, D.C.
1953 – Travels to New York, New York; meets Helen Frankenthaler
1954 – First Veil series completed
1962 – Diagnosed with lung cancer, dies in Washington, D.C.

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