George L. K. Morris American, 1905-1975

Overview

George L. K. Morris, like his distant cousin, Albert E. Gallatin, was born to a distinguised New York family-the Bronx's Morrisania is named for an ancestor. He studied at Groton Prep before joining the rolls of Yale University. While editing the Yale Literary Magazine, he develped a close working relationship with Gallatin in 1927, and the two toured Paris together that year. By his graduation, Morris's literary aspirations had taken a supporting role to painting, which he pursued at the Art Students League under John Sloan and Kenneth Hayes Miller. Sloan and Miller are remembered as conservative realists, but Sloan in particular must have imparted some of his progressive philosophy upon the young painter. 

 

In 1930, Morris left for Paris, studying under Fernand Léger at the Academie Moderne. On this and his visits from 1933 to 1935, Gallatin introduced Morris to Picasso, Braque, and Brancusi. 1935 was a banner year for Morris: he curated the Museum of Modern Art's first Léger retrospective and penned the catalogue essay-and he marries Suzy Frelinghuysen, herself a painter and socialite of some renown. He launched Plastique, a magazine devoted to abstract art with comment from himself and Charles Green Shaw. Morris and Frelinghuysen joined early talks that would develop into the American Abstract Artists group. This group launched its first exhibition the following April, and later in 1937, Morris helped organize Five Contemporary American Concretionists, in partial response to the Museum of Modern Art's survey of abstraction that omitted contemporary Americans. Morris helped revive the foundering Partisan Review, taking over as critic in 1938. Where Plastique found only a narrow audience, the Partisan Review would continue for decades, launching the careers of the most important critics of the mid-twentieth century, Clement Greenberg chief among them.

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