Harold Shapinsky



Not on display

Harold Shapinsky 1925–2004
Oil paint and enamel paint on paper on board
Support: 616 × 749 mm
Presented anonymously through the Mayor Gallery in honour of Ronald Alley 1985

Catalogue entry

Harold Shapinsky born 1925

T04126 Untitled 1949

Oil and enamel on paper 491 x 621 (19 3/8 x 24 1/2) laid on hardboard 616 x 749 (24 1/4 x 29 1/2)
Inscribed ‘Shapinsky' b.r. and ‘1949' on back of hardboard panel
Presented anonymously through the Mayor Gallery in honour of Ronald Alley 1985
Prov: Bought by the donor from the artist in 1985
Exh: Harold Shapinsky, Mayor Gallery, May-June 1985 (5, repr. p.14)

In the early 1940s Shapinsky painted in a traditional, academic manner. However, like many young artists of his generation, he discovered in turn Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse and quickly absorbed the lessons of avant-garde European painting. At this point he dropped out of mainstream art education, abandoning the scholarship he held at the Art Students League; he found art schools ‘lacking in intelligence, creativity and imagination' (letter to the compiler postmarked 12 January 1988). After painting on his own for a period, he took up a scholarship at The Subjects of the Artist, an art school founded by Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell in New York in 1948. The environment there, he writes, was ‘more amenable to the things I was working on'. By the late 1940s he had reached a fully developed style of abstraction which, with subtle changes and variations, was to remain the staple of his work.

Shapinsky generally leaves his works untitled in order not to suggest a literal identification of his imagery. Regarding the artist's understanding of the relationship between his paintings and experience of everyday life Marta Jakimowicz-Shah has written:

Shapinsky speaks of his most profound conclusions discovered while watching the changing spaces between different objects. He sees that during his walks in parks where tree branches radiate and create varying spaces between themselves. Such an interpretation of forces, spaces and colours can be felt among crowds of people, in traffic, among flying birds and common utensils placed on the kitchen table. Shapinsky considers as essential his ideas gathered from weather maps, which display wind pressure, and from the chalk drawings done on large tables in the cutting rooms of garment factories where he discovered powerful lines of force (‘Harold Shapinsky', Harold Shapinsky, exh. cat., Mayor Gallery, 1985, p.6).

T04126 is painted on paper laid on hardboard. In his essay ‘The "Discovery" of Harold Shapinsky' in the catalogue of the exhibition at the Mayor Gallery in 1985 Ronald Alley wrote that the artist had generally painted on a small scale and on paper ‘partly because he had no studio and could not afford canvases' (ibid., p.4). Ronald Alley, then Keeper of the Modern Collection at the Tate Gallery, was instrumental in organising the exhibition at the Mayor Gallery of the work of this artist who had never before had a one-man show.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.282-3

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