ARTHUR BEECHER CARLESAmerican, 1882-1952
A pioneer of Abstract Expressionist painting, Arthur Beecher Carles was born a watchmaker’s son in Philadelphia in 1882. Carles studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1900 to 1907 with Thomas Anschutz, Cecilia Beaux, Hugh Breckenridge, William Merritt Chase, and Henry McCarter. He was awarded a Cresson Traveling Scholarship to study in Paris in 1905 and 1907-1910. Carles was a founding member of the New Society of American Artists in Paris. While there, he was influenced by the Parisian modernists and German Expressionism, but developed his own style that would place him among the early American modernists. In Paris he numbered among his friends photographer Alfred Stieglitz, painter-photographer Edward Steichen, painter John Marin, poet Gertrude Stein, and collector Alfred Barnes. Stieglitz promoted Carles’ work in his New York gallery, including him in his show “Younger American Painters,” the first exhibition of American modernism. Carles contributed to a cultural renaissance in early 20th century Philadelphia by bringing the fresh ideas of French Impressionism and the bold innovations of his own style to what had been a conservative art culture. It has been said that “Carles was a painter whose works reflect the birth pangs of modernism in America.” Carles organized three exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with the help and encouragement of his friend Leopold Stokowski. He taught at PAFA beginning in 1917. In 1920 the Academy faculty formally protested Carles’ advocacy of modernism, and he was dismissed from his position in 1925. Carles turned to teaching privately, and continued to paint abstractly. His paintings were exhibited widely across the U.S. and won many prizes. His primary subjects were still lifes, landscapes, and nudes. The artist returned to an early interest in cubism around 1928. But by the 1930s, alcoholism, deteriorating health, and a fall that left him partially paralyzed affected his ability to paint. Carles’ work is represented in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which sponsored a traveling retrospective exhibition of his paintings in 1983; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Art; and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others. The sitter in this unusual portrait, identified as Leopold Stokowski, was conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra from 1912 to the end of the 1930s. Stokowski founded the All-American Youth Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra. He was known for championing the works of living composers.