Matulka, c.1927, silver gelatin print
gift of Jan Matulka estate
Frances Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives;
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Jan Matulka (1890-1972) was one of the pioneers in American modernist
painting. Born in Czechoslovakia and educated in New York, he
moved seamlessly between American and European art circles in
the crucial, formative years between the wars, 1920–1940.
From Paris and Prague to New York and Cape Cod, his ability to
understand and assimilate avant garde developments in progressive
painting made him one of the most important and vibrant voices
in the early days of American Modernism-—along with a small
group of painters including Arshile Gorky and Stuart Davis.
Unfortunately, for reasons both personal and professional, Matulka
slipped into obscurity in the 1940s. Although he lived another
twenty years, he ceased to play an active role in the development
of American art. In 1979 the Whitney Museum of
American Art in association with the National Collection of Fine
Arts (now, the National Museum of American Art) mounted a major
retrospective of the artist’s work, beginning a reconsideration
of Matulka that continues today. Jan Matulka – The Global
Modernist is the first museum exhibition since and examines his
unique position as a conduit between the worlds of European and
American painters. Patterson Sims, who organized the 1979 exhibition,
is currently the director of the Montclair Art Museum which has
co-sponsored The Global Modernist along with the artist’s
The exhibition presents over sixty works—oils, watercolors,
drawings, and prints—that span the years from 1915 to 1950.
A 72 page catalog accompanies the exhibition which will travel
to six museums from September 2004 through June 2006.