Wood Gaylor and American Modernism

  • HUNTINGTON, New York
  • /
  • January 20, 2021

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GAYLOR, (Samuel) Wood (American, 1883-1957) Arts Ball, 1918, 1918 Oil on canvas 27 x 45 in. (68.6 x 114.3) Private Collection
Heckscher Museum

On View January 23 to May 23, 2021, at The Hecksher Museum of Art

Scenes of festive revelers, clowns and performers -- and his fellow artists -- are the signature subject matter of Wood Gaylor’s raucous paintings. Wood Gaylor and American Modernism includes two dozen artworks by Gaylor.  The artwork is interspersed with paintings, sculptures, and drawings from The Heckscher Museum’s collection representing artists that traveled in Gaylor’s social and artistic circles. 

In 1916, Gaylor (1883-1957) joined Walt Kuhn and other prominent modern artists in New York City to form The Penguin Group. The irreverent association put on exhibitions, held weekly sketching sessions with nude models, and mounted fantastic Arts Balls, complete with costumes, comical skits, musicians, and papier-mâché props. Gaylor captured these spirited events in paintings featuring brightly-colored, flat, outlined figures in grand spaces.

Throughout the 1920s, Gaylor spent summers in Ogunquit, Maine, where he and other artists became some of the first collectors of American folk art. The flattening and distortion in early American painting provided affirmation for Gaylor’s faux-naïve style. The personal relationships Gaylor developed in Maine were among the most significant of his life, including his marriage to fellow artist Adelaide Lawson, whose work is also be on view.

"The Heckscher Museum's strength in modern American art makes it fitting that we take part in bringing the first scholarly museum exhibition of Gaylor's work to our audiences,” said Karli Wurzelbacher, Curator. “Our collection of artworks by Gaylor's peers, many of whom are portrayed in his paintings, enriches our presentation of the show. I'm excited to spend the next few months with these vibrant, joyful, social scenes on view in our galleries."

Gaylor continued to organize and depict grand events of the New York art world throughout the 1920s and into the mid-1930s, when he and his family relocated to Glenwood Landing on Long Island. They held exhibitions and art classes in their barn and yard.

Wood Gaylor and American Modernism includes paintings from the Smith College Museum of Art, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.  This exhibition is organized by the Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont. The Heckscher Museum of Art is grateful to Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts, LLC for the generous support of this exhibition and the accompanying catalogue. 

Heckscher Museum of Art

Heckscher Museum of Art
2 Prime Avenue
Huntington, New York
Heckscher Museum of Art
About Heckscher Museum of Art

he Heckscher Museum of Art is located in scenic Heckscher Park in Huntington.  The Museum provides a dynamic schedule of changing exhibitions on American art, inspiring education experiences for students and an exciting series of public programs both in person and online for all ages. Now entering it’s second century as a source of art and inspiration, The Heckscher Museum of Art was founded in 1920 by philanthropist August Heckscher, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Museum’s collection comprises more than 2,300 works from the 16th to the 21st century, including European and American painting, sculpture, works on paper, and photography. For more information, visit Heckscher.org.

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