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John Graham

Also Known as: John D. Graham, Ivan G. Dombrowski, Ivan Dabrowski, Ivan Gratianovich Dombrowski, John D. Dombrowski, Ivan Dombrowski

Born:
Warsaw, Russia 1886

Died:
London, England 1961

Active in:

  • New York, New York

Biography

A painter, writer and collector, John Graham was born Ivan Dabrowsky in Kiev. He earned a law degree, served as a czarist cavalry officer, was imprisoned during the 1917 revolution but escaped first to Paris and then, in 1921, to New York. At the Art Students League, he studied with John Sloan and became the center of a circle that included Willem de Kooning, Stuart Davis, Jacob Kainen and Arshile Gorky. He introduced Lee Krasner to Jackson Pollock, gave Pollock his first significant exhibition, and suggested to David Smith that he concentrate on sculpture instead of painting. A Renaissance man with an encyclopedic knowledge of art history, he also was a mystic, an eccentric, an intellectual, an aristocrat, a skilled practitioner of yoga, a noted connoisseur and a linguist who spoke twelve languages. He lionized Picasso and, by influencing his younger American colleagues, Graham became one of the principal channels of modernist influence. By the late 1930s, however, he had turned his back on the movement he had helped to foster.

"Recent Acquisition." National Museum of American Art Calendar of Events (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, October 1983)