The Hillstrom Museum of Art at Gustavus Adolphus College will present two concurrent, complementary exhibitions from February 17 through April 17: Minna Citron: The Uncharted Course from Realism to Abstraction, and Peggy Bacon, Keeping the Realist Course. An opening reception is set for 7-9 p.m., Monday, Feb. 17, and includes a gallery talk at 7:30 p.m. by Christiane H. Citron, granddaughter and scholar of Minna Citron.
Artist Minna Citron (1896-1991) was a pioneering abstract expressionist and a feminist. She was raised in Brooklyn and attended New York City’s Art Students League. After her studies, she lived near Union Square in New York, where she was part of the group later known as the Fourteenth Street School, artists with ties to the League and who worked in a manner known as urban realism, an offshoot of the Ashcan School.
Citron’s works from the 1930s were frequently images relating to the lives of women, done in a realistic style. She believed in individual expression that was not respectful of conventional societal roles of women in that period, and she identified herself with feminism. Unlike many of the artists originating in the Art Students League, Citron moved definitively away from realism. Prominent British art critic Max Chapman (1911-1999) noted in 1976 that Citron was among the first artists in New York to absorb the influence of European avant-garde artists who came to the city during World War II, and her work moved more and more in the direction of abstraction.
This exhibition of Citron’s work covers the range of her long career. Its title derives from an essay Citron wrote titled “The Uncharted Course,” a term which is understood as a reference to not only the wandering trajectory of the artist’s stylistic development, but also to her interest in Surrealist automatism, in which imagery is allowed to develop almost unconsciously. This aspect of Citron’s work developed in tandem with her association with British printmaker Stanley Hayter (1901-1988), whose influential workshop and printmaking studio Atelier 17 had relocated from Paris to New York during World War II and was a center of modernist, abstract printmaking. Citron was also heavily influenced in her work by her interest in Freudian psychoanalysis, a natural complement to her explorations of Surrealist approaches in art.
The appearance of Minna Citron: The Uncharted Course from Realism to Abstraction at the Hillstrom Museum of Art is part of a national tour that also includes the Syracuse University Art Galleries, the Asheville Art Museum in North Carolina, and the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia. The exhibit was organized by Jennifer L. Streb, associate professor of art history at Juniata College (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) and curator of the Juniata College Museum of Art, where it debuted. It features over fifty of the artist’s paintings, prints, drawings, and collages, selected from the collection of Christiane H. Citron, granddaughter and scholar of the artist, and co-organizer of the exhibit. A catalogue written by Streb, with Citron, accompanies the exhibition. Streb will give a public gallery talk at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 3.
As a concurrent complement to The Uncharted Course, the Hillstrom Museum of Art is presenting Peggy Bacon, Keeping the Realist Course, featuring works by Citron’s contemporary, American artist Peggy Bacon (1895-1987). Citron knew Bacon, and they had some of the same mentors at the Art Students League, though Bacon was at the League about a decade earlier and her style remained firmly rooted in the realist tradition. Keeping the Realist Course explores the illustrious career of Bacon, who was known particularly for her sharp wit, especially in many of her drawings and prints as well as in her works as an accomplished author. The artist was a favorite of Hillstrom Museum of Art namesake Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom, and the exhibit includes several works donated to the Museum by him, in addition to works acquired through the use of Museum endowment acquisitions funds, a drawing donated by Museum supporters Dr. David and Kathryn Gilbertson, and works on loan from a private collection in New York and from prominent Minnesota collectors Dr. John and Colles Larkin.
All events are free and open to the public. Regular Museum hours are weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends, 1 to 5 p.m. Please visit the Museum’s website at gustavus.edu/finearts/hillstrom for further information.
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