Art: Composers

3 minute read

As laboratory lightning differs from starlight, so do the masterpieces of such kinetic moderns as Dali and Picasso seem to differ from those of past times. But other modern artists like to shine in some tranquillity, and of this steady sort two experts had exhibitions in Manhattan last week.

> Morris Kantor, whose horsy, Old Testament head is one of the longest on the faculty of Manhattan’s Art Students’ League, has been a respected U. S. painter for about ten years. Few people were prepared, however, to find his roomful of canvases at the Rehn Galleries the most satisfying in the city, not excluding the big Whitney Museum annual of contemporary U. S. painting.

Kantor’s style, still evolving, owes a debt to surrealism but is quite distinct from it. “The surrealists paint fantasy realistically,” he said last week, “but I try to paint real things fantastically—with imagination.” After many experiments in technique and studies in arts as diverse as daguerreotype and Early American furniture, he has begun to get a simple finality of design and great subtlety of “surface.”

Any painter starts with a piece of canvas and literally builds his picture on it. Kantor builds with virtuosity, his favorite brush stroke a kind of scallop, his favorite atmospheric greys and browns full of warm or cold shine from the color elements in them. His compositions are sometimes epigrams in paint: a lighthouse stout and stark on a green hill crest with telephone poles slanting one way on one side, the other way on the other, as if in a tug of war that keeps the lighthouse rigid.

His Trees (see cut) were ranked last week with those of the great arboreal Frenchman, Segonzac. Morris Kantor, who does not even try to paint in Manhattan or any place that is “emotionally overpowering.” and never anywhere on grey days, eschews Surrealist or other theorizing and thinks the best way to get U. S artists over their self-consciousness is to let them alone.

>Anatol Shulkin, a pale, round-faced, baldish little professional known principally for his murals, had an exhibition of easel work at the Midtown Galleries just two years later than it had been scheduled. Reason: two summers ago his summer place in New Jersey burned to the ground and ten years’ work burned with it. The Shulkin mettle was proved in several smooth, strong, pleasant figure compositions notable for harmonizing brilliant colors without making them yell.

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