Originally from East Orange, New Jersey, Rupert Turnbull studied at the Art Students League, at the Académie Scandinave and the Académie Lhote in Paris, and with Vaclav Vytlacil in Paris and Italy. He turned to abstraction about 1930, and was one of the American abstract painters whose work Albert Gallatin purchased for the Gallery of Living Art. During the 1930s, Turnbull taught at Cooper Union and, during its short existence, at the Design Laboratory in New York City. Although little is known about Turnbull’s ideas on art, the Untitled canvas of 1938 suggests debts to both Kandinsky andMiró.(1)
Turnbull exhibited with the American Abstract Artists until 1942, and served on the group’s executive committee in the early 1940s. According to Balcomb Greene, Turnbull was killed in an automobile accident during World War II.(2)
1. “Rupert Davidson Turnbull,” American Abstract Artists: Three Yearbooks (1938, 1939, 1946) (reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1969).
2. Balcomb Greene, interview with Susan C. Larsen, 30 January 1973, in Susan C. Larsen, “The American Abstract Artists Group: A History and Evaluation of Its Impact Upon American Art” (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1974), p. 529.
Virginia M. Mecklenburg The Patricia and Phillip Frost Collection: American Abstraction 1930–1945 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1989)