Marvin P. Lazarus
Adolph Gottlieb in front of his painting, Spray, 1959
Gelatin-silver print
©Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY





Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903-1974)
Untitled (Self-Portrait in Mirror),
c. 1938
Oil on canvas
©Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY





Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903-1974)
The Swimming Hole, 1937
Oil on canvas
©Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY



I also dwell on Gottlieb's future because he is one of the handful of artists on whom the immediate future of painting itself depends. . . . The very difficulty of his art . . . attests to the fact that the heroic age of American art is not yet over.

Clement Greenberg, the seminal critic and champion of the Abstract Expressionist movement, expressed these thoughts on the occasion of Adolph Gottlieb's exhibition at The Jewish Museum in 1957, the first survey of an Abstract Expressionist artist's work in a New York museum. A leading member of the New York School, Gottlieb (1903-1974) was at the center of a diverse group of artists that included Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Along with writers and musicians, these Abstract Expressionist painters and sculptors transformed New York City into the new intellectual and artistic center, replacing Paris as the avant-garde mecca. Aware of the developments of European modernism but seeking independent identities, the Abstract Expressionists changed the direction of painting in the 1940s. In doing so, they created a distinctly American idiom.

Like most Abstract Expressionist artists, Gottlieb began his career as a representational painter, producing easel-scale works. Throughout the 1930s he rejected the political agendas that defined American Scene painting, choosing instead to accentuate the formal aspects of modernism and the primacy of emotional content. His Pictographs of the 1940s, with their enigmatic and complex components, were his first innovation. Over the next thirty years, Gottlieb distilled the elements of the Pictographs into his equally revolutionary Labyrinths, Imaginary Landscapes, Unstill Lifes, and Bursts. The radical nature of these works was intended to engage the viewer at the dynamic juncture of the artistic, intellectual, and spiritual.

Gottlieb, like so many major intellectuals of the 1950s, believed that his personal identity-Jewish or American-should play no role in his painting. In his view, "The idea of being a so-called Jewish artist is like being a professional Jew. I think art is international and should transcend any racial, ethnic, religious, or national boundaries." In fact, the expansive visual language Gottlieb developed during his fifty-year career was founded on the universality and emotive force of images.



This exhibition was organized by IVAM Centre Julio González in Valencia, Spain, and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation in New York.

The installation for the exhibition at The Jewish Museum was designed by Tsao & McKown Architects in New York.

Unless otherwise noted, all works in the exhibition were lent by the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation.

Endowment support has been provided by the Fine Arts Fund, established at The Jewish Museum by the National Endowment for the Arts and the generosity of private donors.

Additional support for Adolph Gottlieb: A Survey Exhibition has been provided by the Norman Rosita Winston Foundation, Inc.