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Artists William Baziotes
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William Baziotes

American Painter

Movement: Abstract Expressionism

Born: June 11, 1912 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Died: June 6, 1963 - New York, New York, USA

William Baziotes Timeline

Quotes

"Each beginning suggests something. Once I sense the suggestion, I begin to paint intuitively. The suggestion then becomes a phantom that must be caught and made real. As I work, or when the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself."
William Baziotes
"It is the mysterious that I love in painting. It is the stillness and the silence. I want my pictures to take effect very slowly, to obsess and to haunt."
William Baziotes
"The emphasis on flora, fauna and beings brings forth those strange memories and psychic feelings that mystify and fascinate all of us."
William Baziotes
"My whole intention in painting is to make a thing poetical . . . when I paint, I do not consider myself an abstractionist in the sense that I'm trying to create beautiful forms that fit together like a puzzle. The things in my painting are intended to strike something that is an emotional involvement - that has to do with the human personality and all the mysteries of life, not simply colors or abstract balances. To, it's all reality."
William Baziotes
"And when the demagogues of art call on you to make the social art, the intelligible art, the good art, spit down on them and go back to your dreams, the world, and your mirror."
William Baziotes

"It is the mysterious that I love in painting. It is the stillness and the silence. I want my pictures to take effect very slowly, to obsess and to haunt."

William Baziotes Signature

Synopsis

William Baziotes was a New York painter whose lyrical and often mysterious works relied heavily on subject matter derived from biomorphism and Symbolist poetry. He was an integral part of the Abstract Expressionist circle and exhibited with them frequently. Like his peers, he was deeply committed to concerns of paint application and abstracted forms, yet his interest in the medium of paint was combined with many sources for his imagery to produce works that evoked particular moods, or dream-like states - often more closely related to European Surrealism than to Abstract Expressionism. This duality in his work was described as "biomorphic abstraction" and was influential to artists such as Mark Rothko.

Key Ideas

Baziotes was one of the few Abstract Expressionist artists who remained committed to the figure. He took his early Surrealist-inspired explorations further by creating strange, primitive imagery that seems to have been pulled from the darkness of the subconscious. His works in this vein were described as "biomorphic abstraction" because of his use of organic forms and other figurative elements that were not easily identifiable.
Unlike his Abstract Expressionist peers, even Baziotes' most experimental canvases contain a structured, almost grid-like composition that was influenced by early Cubism and the artist's work with stained glass. In conjunction with this underlying structure, however, Baziotes also felt that art should evoke emotions and moods through color, shape, and paint application, thus many of his works have a lyrical or poetic element.

Most Important Art

William Baziotes Famous Art

Dwarf (1947)

This work is one of a group of paintings from 1947 that are all distinguished by a single figure dominating the composition. The primitive, grotesque figures are derived from Surrealist biomorphism and are not clearly human or animal. Like The Parachutists (1944), this work is also about war, but without the lighthearted, almost playful quality of the former. Dwarf instead captures the gruesomeness and violence of war in its reference to a mutilated figure without arms who has oversized, sharp teeth. All of the images in the group have concentric circles or spaces in their lower halves that are meant to be suggestive of female genitalia or targets. The works are a good example of the "biomorphic abstraction," that marked much of the artist's output, characterized by organic forms that are familiar, resembling both plants and animals, but that do not coalesce into recognizable shapes. His use of such imagery is perhaps tied to his interest in Symbolist poetry that is characterized by indirect descriptions, making multiple meanings possible.
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William Baziotes Artworks in Focus:

Biography

Childhood

William Baziotes was born in 1912 to Greek parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His family moved shortly thereafter to the working class city of Reading, Pennsylvania, where Baziotes spent his childhood. As a young adult, Baziotes worked at the Case Glass Company from 1931 to 1933, antiquing glass and doing other chores while taking an evening drawing class. It was in Reading that Baziotes met Byron Vazsakas, a poet who became a good friend and who introduced the painter to the work of Charles Baudelaire and the Symbolist poets, whose writing would have a significant impact on his work throughout his life. Vazsakas encouraged Baziotes to pursue art and Baziotes moved to New York City to study painting in 1933.

Early Training

William Baziotes Biography

Baziotes attended the National Academy of Design in New York City from 1933 until 1936 and also studied the work of the Old Masters during this period. He taught in Queens for the WPA Federal Art Project from 1936 to 1938 and then worked on the WPA Easel Project from 1938 through 1941, where he was paid to stay in his studio and make art. It was in these various jobs that he was introduced to artists working in the Surrealist idiom, many of them European immigrants. He met the Chilean Surrealist painter Roberto Matta who was a proponent of automatic painting and who exerted a large influence on Baziotes. Robert Motherwell, whom he also met during this period, became a close friend. Baziotes married Ethel Copstein in 1941, and they lived in Morningside Heights, New York. One of Baziotes's early group shows was the First Papers of Surrealism exhibition in New York in 1942.

The Surrealist interest in the psychic and subconscious dimension manifested itself in the odd, lyrical forms that populate Baziotes's paintings, with the Spanish painter Joan Miró being a particular inspiration. Many other New York painters in addition to Baziotes, including Adolph Gottlieb, Clyfford Still, and Mark Rothko also turned to what they deemed primitive or mythological forms in an attempt to get at a more universal significance.

Mature Period

William Baziotes Photo

Baziotes was a major figure in the galleries, schools, and clubs that constituted the social world of Abstract Expressionism. He had his first solo show at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery in 1944 and a second one in 1946 at the Samuel Kootz Gallery. Even more important than the galleries were the schools and clubs that the Abstract Expressionists founded and attended. Some of these were quite informal, like the regular discussions that took place at the Cedar Street Tavern on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village. Others were more purposeful. In 1948, Baziotes, along with David Hare, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko, founded the Subjects of the Artist School, a group that, among other things, provided a speakers' forum where American and European artists could address topics of interest for the modern painter.

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Late Years and Death

William Baziotes Portrait

Unlike Rothko and Still, who moved away from mythic symbols and allusions to more purely abstract work, Baziotes's paintings maintained a Surrealist and figurative quality.

Baziotes worked throughout the 1950s as a teaching artist at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York University, the People's Art Center at the Museum of Modern Art, and the City University of New York, Hunter College. In 1962, he was included in Sydney Janis's important exhibition Ten American Painters. Baziotes died of lung cancer in 1963.


Legacy

While stylistically Baziotes remained somewhat apart from the main Abstract Expressionists, he exerted a tremendous and shaping influence on many painters at the time. He was one of the first New York artists to actively experiment with automatic drawing and other Surrealist techniques, and he created forums for debate that were central to the New York scene in the 1940s.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

William Baziotes
Interactive chart with William Baziotes's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart

Artists

Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Joan MiróJoan Miró
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Roberto MattaRoberto Matta
Charles BaudelaireCharles Baudelaire

Friends

Roberto MattaRoberto Matta
Max ErnstMax Ernst
Robert MotherwellRobert Motherwell
Mark RothkoMark Rothko

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
ExpressionismExpressionism
CubismCubism
William Baziotes
William Baziotes
Years Worked: 1934 - 1962

Artists

Robert MotherwellRobert Motherwell
Mark RothkoMark Rothko
Adolph GottliebAdolph Gottlieb

Friends

Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Lee KrasnerLee Krasner

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

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Useful Resources on William Baziotes

Books

Websites

Articles

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The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

paintings

William Baziotes: Paintings and Drawings, 1934-1962 Recomended resource

By Michael Preble

William Baziotes: The Poetic Spirit

By Robert Reed Cole, Louis A. Zona, Ethel and Baziotes

William Baziotes

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
November 29, 2012

The Shooting Star Recomended resource

By George Negroponte
BOMB Magazine
November 16, 2012

One-Eyed Jack

By Carroll Dunham
Artforum
Summer 2011

William Baziotes

By Grace Glueck
The New York Times
October 19, 2001

More Interesting Articles about William Baziotes
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