Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum

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Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park, No. 6, 1968

Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum features forty-three key paintings and sculptures by thirty-one of the most celebrated artists who came to maturity in the 1950s.


Through three broadly-conceived themes that span two decades of creative genius —"Significant Gestures," "Optics and Order" and "New Images of Man"—Modern Masters examines the complex and heterogeneous nature of American abstract art in the mid-twentieth century. Featured artists include Jim Dine, David Driskell, Sam Francis, Philip Guston, Grace Hartigan, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Louise Nevelson, Anne Truitt and Esteban Vicente.

Visiting Information

November 1, 2008 December 15, 2011
Open Daily, 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m
Free Admission

Tour Schedule

Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum
Miami, FL
November 29, 2008 March 1, 2009
Westmoreland Museum of American Art
Greensburg, PA
June 14, 2009 September 6, 2009
Dayton Art Institute
Dayton, OH
July 23, 2010 October 10, 2010
Telfair Museum of Art
Savannah, GA
November 5, 2010 February 5, 2011
Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art
Nashville, TN
March 19, 2011 June 19, 2011
Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Winston-Salem, NC
October 7, 2011 December 31, 2011


The Smithsonian American Art Museum is grateful to our generous contributors for their support of Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund provided support for the publication. The C. F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum's traveling exhibition program Treasures to Go. Members of the Smithsonian Council for American Art contribute to the museum's national programs.


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Jim Dine
born Cincinnati, OH 1935

Jim Dine studied at the University of Cincinnati and the Boston Museum School, earning a BFA at Ohio University in 1957.

David Driskell
born Eatonton, GA 1931-died Hyattsville, MD 2020
Sam Francis
born San Mateo, CA 1923-died Santa Monica, CA 1994

Of the West Coast artists that Martha Jackson brought to New York, certainly the most celebrated and ultimately the most successful was a painter whose reputation was well established in Europe before Americans paid him much heed.

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Philip Guston
born Montreal, Quebec, Canada 1913-died Woodstock, NY 1980

Philip Guston was born Philip Goldstein in Montreal, Canada, in 1913 to Russian emigrés from Odessa. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1919. In 1925, he took a correspondence course in cartooning.

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Grace Hartigan
born Newark, NJ 1922-died Timonium, MD 2008

Grace Hartigan grew up in New Jersey, where she married the boy next door after graduating from high school. She saw the 1935 film Call of the Wild and decided on a whim to move to Alaska with her new husband.

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Hans Hofmann
born Weissenberg, Germany 1880-died New York City 1966

Painter. A German American, Hofmann was a leading Abstract Expressionist painter and was considered to be one of the greatest twentieth century teachers.

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Franz Kline
born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1910-died New York City 1962

Painter, Abstract Expressionist. Early in his career, Kline painted landscapes, street scenes and portraits. His mature style was abstract, distinctive for its broad, highly charged black strokes on a white ground.

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Louise Nevelson
born Kiev, Russia (now Kyiv, Ukraine) 1899-died New York City 1988

Born in Russia, brought to Maine in 1905, lived in New York City starting in 1920. Internationally famous artist who created striking assemblages of found wooden forms, and sculptures in steel, aluminum, Plexiglass, and other materials.

Anne Truitt
born Baltimore, MD 1921-died Washington, DC 2004

Anne Truitt was a psychology major at Bryn Mawr College, received her BA degree in 1943 and subsequently worked as a psychologist in Boston.

Esteban Vicente
born Turegano, Spain 1903-died Bridgehampton, NY 2001