The Venezuelan painter Héctor Poleo is reemerging today as a major figure in modern Latin American art, though he enjoyed an international reputation in South America, Mexico, and the United States during his lifetime. Inspired by the social and political ideals of the Mexican Muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, his early work typically celebrated indigenous Latin American culture and social customs. Eventually his art moved toward symbolic surrealism.
During Edwin Dickinson’s childhood, his family expected him to become a Presbyterian minister. Instead, he settled on a career in the navy. After failing the Annapolis entrance exam twice, he decided to become a painter instead. He enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and took classes at the Art Students League of New York and the National Academy of Design. Dickinson liked to find the visual appeal of common or discarded objects, which he included in his bustling, crowded compositions.
George Grosz established a reputation as one of the leading modern artists in Germany. Born in Berlin, he served in the military during World War I. A founder of German Dada, the left-wing art movement that was critical of nationalism and militarism, he was forced to flee Germany; in 1932 he settled in New York, where he enjoyed widespread success as a painter, printmaker, and teacher.
Florine Stettheimer was a painter, poet, and designer who challenged the conventions of her time. Born in Rochester, New York, she was raised in an upper-class family that became distinctly matriarchal after her father left. Stettheimer studied at the Art Students League of New York, and she made art during her family’s extensive travels through Europe. Her paintings read like a visual diary, and she painted New York society with the humor and detachment of a witty observer.
John Koch was born in Toledo, Ohio, and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His first medium was charcoal drawing, and he supported himself as a young art student in Paris by drawing portraits. After five years in Paris, he moved to New York City, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1939 he joined the Kraushaar Galleries, where he enjoyed many solo exhibitions. During World War II, he was a member of the United Service Organizations, drawing portrait sketches in veterans’ hospitals.
Trained as an architect, Manierre Dawson was self-taught as a painter. His abstract paintings were among the first nonobjective works produced in the United States. Following a six-month tour of Europe, Dawson settled in Chicago, where he reinterpreted the classical and modern art he saw on his travels. After purchasing a fruit orchard in Michigan, the demands of running his farm limited his ability to paint. He later enjoyed a productive period as a sculptor in the 1940s and 1950s.
Born in Bialystok, Russia (now Poland), Max Weber immigrated with his parents to Brooklyn, New York, when he was 10 years old. After studying with Arthur Wesley Dow at the Pratt Institute, he worked as an art teacher in public schools in Virginia and Minnesota. Weber traveled to Paris in 1905 to study at traditional art schools before joining the avant-garde, studying under Henri Matisse and befriending Henri Rousseau, and his early paintings show an interest in Futurism, Cubism, and Fauvism.
Diego Rivera’s art was shaped by the socialist ideals of Mexican politics and by the Mexican Renaissance, which sought to revive native cultures and traditions as a means of unifying national identity. Rivera drew artistic inspiration from his personal collection, the largest in Mexico, of more than 59,000 ancient American art objects. He housed them in a Mayan Revival museum inscribed on the portal, “I give back to my people that which they can rescue from the artistic legacy of their ancestors.”
Xavier Martínez was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sailing through the Golden Gate in 1893, he settled in California and went on to become an important painter, teacher, and active member of the growing community of Bay Area artists. He adopted the dark golden palette and compositional strategies of Tonalism early in his career, and he kept painting in this style for 50 years.
Renowned both for his bold and colorful compositions that combined elements of representation and abstraction, and for his role as an influential teacher for generations of artists, German-born Hans Hofmann was a pivotal figure in the evolution of American art after World War II. In 1933 he opened the Hans Hofmann School of Art in New York and Provincetown, which he ran for 23 years. Hofmann was the key figure linking European modernism with the evolution of American Abstract Expressionism.