Who Is Morris Hirshfield, Shoe Designer and Self-Taught Artist – ARTnews.com


In 1937, newly retired tailor and shoe fashion designer Morris Hirshfield started to take into accounts portray the animals, other people, and landscapes in his head. He would move on to supply a trifling 78 works—a serve as of each his quick profession and his labor-intensive procedure.

An upcoming retrospective at New York’s American Folks Artwork Museum, Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered, will display greater than 40 of them. The exhibition coincides with the e-newsletter of a scholarly monograph, Grasp of the Two Left Ft through Richard Meyer (MIT Press), and displays renewed passion in Hirshfield inside of a broader rediscovery of American self-taught artists.

Lately Hirshfield has been integrated within the 2018 “Outliers and American Artwork” staff display on the Nationwide Gallery of Artwork, and his paintings is in “Gatecrashers,” a touring exhibition that opened on the Brandywine River Museum of Artwork in Would possibly. 3 of the 8 Hirshfield artwork in MoMA’s everlasting assortment are actually on show there in “Masters of Fashionable Portray,” an set up of the self-taught artists whom MoMA’s founding director, Alfred H. Barr Jr., exhibited all the way through his tenure.

Beach Girl. 1937-39 (dated on painting 1937). Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 22 1/4" (91.8 x 56.3 cm). The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection.

Morris Hirshfield, Seaside Lady, 1937-39, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 22 1/4 inches. Museum of Fashionable Artwork, New York.
Copyright © 2022 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Property of Morris Hirshfield / Approved through VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

For extra on Hirshfield’s existence and artwork, learn on.

From Poland to New York

Born right into a Jewish circle of relatives in Poland in 1872, Hirshfield emigrated to New York on the age of 18 along with his oldsters and siblings. Converting his first identify from Moishe to Morris, he was a development cutter in a downtown ladies’s swimsuit and cloak manufacturing facility. He labored his approach as much as tailor, ultimately opening a small ladies’s clothes store along with his brother.

However Hirshfield’s maximum winning challenge was once the sneakers industry he opened in 1912 along with his brother and sister: the E-Z Stroll Production Corporate. E-Z Stroll first of all produced orthopedic units similar to ankle straighteners and arch helps sooner than freeing a wildly well-liked line of decorated boudoir slippers designed through Hirshfield, which offered neatly even all the way through the Nice Despair. (It grossed $1 million every year.)

Within the mid-Nineteen Thirties Hirshfield took a hiatus from E-Z Stroll because of deficient well being, leaving the corporate within the care of 2 friends beneath whose control it went into bankruptcy. Because of this, he and his spouse, Henriette, downsized to a one-bedroom condo in Brooklyn, the place Hirshfield attempted freelancing as a “foot equipment guide” sooner than retiring from toes altogether in 1937.

Liz Blahd (b. 1954, Grand Rapids, MI), Slippers designed from Morris Hirshfield’s patents, 2021, New York, NY, Wool felt, silk velvet trim with silk cord detail, cotton, pompom of wool, linen, glass beads, velvet-covered button, mohair trim, kidskin sole.

Liz Blahd, slippers made from Morris Hirshfield’s designs, 2021, wool felt, silk velvet trim with silk twine element, cotton, wool pompoms, linen, glass beads, velvet-covered buttons, mohair trim, kidskin soles.
Copyright © Liz Blahd. Photograph through Tony Blahd and Lydia Wonderful

A brand new profession

Hirshfield started to color, the use of his bed room as a studio. Unwilling to invest in canvas, he took two ornamental artwork (relics of extra wealthy instances) off the partitions of his condo and labored on the ones as an alternative.

His first two items—Angora Cat (1939), of an oversize tabby dominating a settee, and Seaside Lady (1939), depicting a girl status in a wildly patterned, all-blue panorama—took him two years to finish, as he painstakingly layered numerous staccato brush marks to create them.

Collector Sidney Janis (who had additionally simply retired from the garment trade) noticed the works at a Ny gallery that was once comparing them for the Brooklyn Museum, the place Hirshfield sought after them to be proven. The gallerist was once unimpressed, however Janis felt another way and ultimately purchased Angora Cat, describing it as a “unusually compelling creature . . . sitting possessively upon a exceptional sofa.”

That yr Janis, who was once at the Museum of Fashionable Artwork’s advisory committee, debuted the 2 artwork in a gaggle exhibition that he visitor curated there titled “Fresh Unknown American Artists.” A Newsweek evaluation deemed Hirshfield “the least refined of the lot” but in addition reproduced Hirshfield’s third-ever portray, Tailor-Made Lady (1939).

Angora Cat. 1937-39 (dated on painting 1937). Oil on canvas, 22 1/8 x 27 1/4" (56.1 x 69.1 cm). The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection.

Morris Hirshfield, Angora Cat, 1937-39, oil on canvas, 22 1/8 x 27 1/4 inches. Museum of Fashionable Artwork, New York.
Copyright © 2022 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Property of Morris Hirshfield /Approved through VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Infiltrating the avant-garde

Janis labored to stay Hirshfield within the public eye. He organized for Lady With Pigeons (1942), of a girl mendacity supine on a striped sofa, awkwardly communing with a chicken, to be integrated in a landmark 1942 exhibition curated through André Breton known as “First Papers of Surrealism” on the Whitelaw Reid Mansion in New York Town.

Hirshfield “would hang his personal towards any festival,” claimed critic Clement Greenberg in a 1942 evaluation of Janis’s ebook, They Taught Themselves: American Primitive Painters of the 20th Century. The artist had an identical religion in his talents and was once quoted in that ebook as pronouncing his artwork had been “higher than a digicam may do” in picturing his explicit truth.

This stamp of approval from the highbrow forefront of the day can have inspired collector and gallerist Peggy Guggenheim to shop for her first Hirshfield that yr thru Janis: Nude on the Window (1941), of a girl framed through scalloped curtains that echo her ovoid breasts and abdominal. Guggenheim reportedly paid $900 (excess of she paid, blended, for works through René Magritte and Piet Mondrian round the similar time) and hung it close to a Kandinsky panorama, a Duchamp nude, and a Picasso nonetheless existence in her house on 51st Side road in New York.

Morris Hirshfield, Girl with Pigeons, 1942, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 1/8 inches, The Museum of Modern Art, 610.1967.

Morris Hirshfield, Lady with Pigeons, 1942, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 1/8 inches. Museum of Fashionable Artwork, New York.
Virtual Symbol © The Museum of M

A solo display at MoMA

The top level of Hirshfield’s profession was once a 1943 MoMA solo display, curated through Barr, that comprised all 30 of the artist’s artwork thus far. It was once extensively reviewed, regardless that many felt the respect were squandered on an beginner.

Referring disparagingly to Hirshfield because the “Grasp of Two Left Ft,” critic Peyton Boswell pegged him as an inept incompetent. “Except being in quite unhealthy style, crudely drawn, harsh in colour and static in design, [the paintings] have not begun any other defect in not unusual,” he wrote in Artwork Digest, describing Hirshfield’s twisted point of view, “they're all left-footed.” Already upset with Barr’s administrative and fundraising talents, MoMa’s president used the exhibition as evidence of Barr’s deficient management and fired him.

Tiger. 1940. Oil on canvas, 28 x 39 7/8" (71.1 x 101.3 cm). Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund.

Morris Hirshfield, Tiger, 1940, oil on canvas, 28 x 39 7/8 inches. Museum of Fashionable Artwork, New York.
Copyright © 2022 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Property of Morris Hirshfield / Approved through VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The fade into obscurity

When Hirshfield died of a middle assault in 1946 at age 74, Janis (who didn’t open his personal gallery till two years later) prompt Guggenheim to mount a memorial display at her New York gallery, Artwork of This Century.

The exhibition opened in 1947 instantly following a Jackson Pollock display and displayed works Hirshfield had painted within the 3 years after his MoMA solo exhibition. “Hirshfield has made a brand new international; a daring, modern, colourful international of unsophisticated point of view and apparently formed population,” wrote a The town and Nation artwork critic, reviewing the display. “That he did it unintentionally whilst believing he was once as it should be representing our personal truth is of no significance. He did it.”

All the way through his transient inventive profession Hirshfield had 15 exhibitions, together with 4 solo presentations, maximum organized thru Janis. After his dying, his reputation declined. He’s been carefully proven since, his works shuttered in storerooms and personal collections, however museums are once more shuffling towards the Grasp of the Two Left Ft.