Recent Acquisition: Untitled, 1953 by Norman Lewis
The Newark Museum’s collection of African-American art is one of the most distinguished in the country, with works by a diverse range of artists dating from the early 19th through the 21st century. An exciting new acquisition by Norman Lewis (1900-1979) brings another important African-American artist—and a major painting by an Abstract Expressionist — into the Museum’s collections. The Newark Museum recently acquired Untitled, 1953 from Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York. Untitled, 1953 measures approximately 4 x 7 feet; the medium is oil and gold metallic paint on linen. This painting is remarkable both for its scale and for its bold abstract composition, featuring Lewis’s calligraphic brushwork in a series of sweeping vertical forms. Untitled, 1953 was previously in the collection of the Norman Lewis Estate and is now on view for the first time ever in the exhibition Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Norman Lewis is central to both the development of modern abstract art and to African-American art. Born and raised in Harlem, his life and work form a bridge between the art of the Harlem Renaissance, the Abstract Expressionists and activist art of the 1960s. Lewis also has a strong history of being shown at the Newark Museum, having participated in the exhibitions American Negro Art in 1944 and Black Artists: Two Generations in 1971, all works lent by the artist. Untitled, 1953 is not the first work by Lewis to enter Newark’s permanent collection. In 2004 the Museum received a gift of a painting and several works on paper by Lewis as part of the Bequest of Irene Wheeler — all in need of conservation which has kept them hidden in storage. Conservation treatment is currently planned for the painting Carnival, 1957 and an untitled drawing by Lewis (both part of the Wheeler bequest), and both will be included in an upcoming special exhibition in 2016.
– Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Curator of American Art
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