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Carl Holty: Romantic Modernist work on display at Georgia Museum of Art

Carl Holty (American, b. Germany, 1900–1973), “Two Women Bathing,” 1948–50. Oil on Masonite, 55 3/4 x 47 3/4 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Charles B. Johnston. GMOA 1950.330.

Throughout a career spanning more than five decades, the artist Carl Holty investigated the evolving language of 20th-century modernist movements. He progressively moved from realism to cubism and finally into abstraction. His teachers and friends Hans Hofmann, Piet Mondrian, Stuart Davis and Mark Rothko were among the masters of his era. Romare Bearden, who co-authored a book with Holty, delivered the eulogy at his funeral in 1973. One of his oldest friends was Howard Thomas, whose recommendation brought Holty to the University of Georgia as artist in residence from 1948 to 1950.

Carl Holty (American, b. Germany, 1900–1973), untitled, 1948. Acrylic on canvas, 5 7/8 x 7 3/8 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Annie Laurie Dodd. GMOA 2012.876.

This exhibition of paintings and drawings, which runs through Jan. 17, reflects Holty’s personal pursuit of modern art theory, much of which focused on color as one of his essential building blocks. Through the years, we see the artist first use color as a structural matrix and later as pure atmospheric ground. His personal writings and recurring visual themes of bathers, nature, horses and riders reveal an artist driven by a romantic ideal, an attitude perhaps reflective of an earlier time. Still, at its core, Holty’s work is truly evocative of 20th-century American modernism.

To read Virginia Rembert Liles’ book “Carl Holty: Search for the Grail,” click here.

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