NEW YORK CITY – When Middleton Manigault inadvertently starved himself to death at the age of 35 in an attempt to “see colors not perceptible to the physical eye,” he ended a short but distinguished career as a pioneering modern artist.
Opening Tuesday, May 21, at Hollis Taggart Galleries, “Middleton Manigault, Visionary Modernist” is the first major exhibition to present the eclectic, highly personal creations of this previously neglected modernist master.
The collection features approximately 50 rarely exhibited works, including oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, etchings, wood sculpture and ceramics, and showcases masterpieces loaned from both public and private collections across the United States and Canada, including several seminal works such as “The Clown,” which was exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show. This traveling exhibition, which was organized by the Columbus Museum of Art in cooperation with Hollis Taggart Galleries, will be on view at the gallery through July 19.
Manigault’s contributions to the history of Modernism have been largely overlooked because of his early death, his reclusive lifestyle and the undocumented dispersal of much of his work. Furthermore, the artist, suffering from depression and fits of hysteria, destroyed a large number of his paintings shortly before his death in 1922. All of these factors have resulted in a lack of public and scholarly attention devoted to Manigault’s art until recently.
Manigault’s career was characterized by incessant experimentation, and his works are remarkable for their decorative sense and imaginative spirit. Unlike many artists of the period, whose reputations rested on a signature style, Manigault found inspiration in an exciting range of artistic tendencies that flourished during Modernism’s formative years. His work exemplifies — indeed, encapsulates — the experimental nature at the heart of modern art.
Manigault’s wide-ranging explorations are reflected by the retrospective nature of this type of exhibition. By 1909, in works such as “The Rocket and Christ Appearing to Mary,” Manigault had adopted a bold palette consisting of primary colors, and implemented a technique derived from pointillism to construct energetic, vibrant compositions. This dappling of bright colors in “The Rocket” contributes to the motion and liveliness of the fireworks scene.
An accompanying exhibition catalog, published by Hollis Taggart Galleries, is the first major publication devoted to exploring Manigault’s life and work. Beth Venn, noted Manigault scholar and guest curator of the exhibition, provided a detailed essay on Manigault’s diverse career, including his investigations of the decorative arts. In addition to Venn’s essays, the catalog includes essays by Nannette V. Maciejunes, senior curator of the Columbus Museum of Art, and Angela Mack, curator of collections of Gibbes Museum of Art.
Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm. For information, 212-628-4000 or visit www.hollistaggart.com.