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Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered

September 23, 2022–January 29, 2023
Exhibition

Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered will reintroduce a singular self-taught artist of the 1930s and 1940s to contemporary audiences. As the sole venue for this exhibition, AFAM’s presentation is the most comprehensive gathering of Hirshfield’s work ever assembled. Featuring loans from private and public collections, the exhibition features over 40 of the self-taught artist’s paintings, including iconic works such as Girl with Flowers, Stage Beauties, Parliamentary Buildings, and Inseparable Friends.

The recognition Hirshfield enjoyed from individuals such as Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton is brought to life in a room dedicated to First Papers of Surrealism. Like Hirshfield, artists including Kay Sage, William Baziotes, and Yves Tanguy were featured in the 1942 exhibition, and their works will be displayed at AFAM alongside Hirshfield’s Girl with Pigeons.

Hirshfield’s career as a tailor maker will be represented by reproductions of the technical drawings that accompanied his patents for shoes, slippers, and “foot appliances.” His slipper designs were variously adorned with pompoms, rosettes, buckles, tassels, or figure eights and speak to the originality and ornamental design that would find full expression in Hirshfield’s later paintings. In recognition of this important facet of Hirshfield’s life, contemporary artist Liz Blahd has fabricated boudoir slippers to the specifications of Hirshfield’s patented designs of the 1920s and 14 will be on view in the galleries.

Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered is curated by Richard Meyer, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor of Art History at Stanford University. Susan Davidson served as curatorial advisor to the exhibition. Valérie Rousseau, the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM)’s Senior Curator of Self-Taught Art and Art Brut, is the show’s coordinating curator.

EXHIBITION-RELATED PROGRAMS

In the Wilds of Brooklyn: A Jewish American Tale

Virtual Insights: Rediscovering Morris Hirshfield

In the Wilds of Brooklyn: Roz Chast and Ben Katchor in Conversation

In Dreams Awake: Jamea Richmond-Edwards,Kathy Ruttenberg and Susan Bee in Conversation

Ornamental Figures: Paper-Cutting with Ruby Sky Stiler

Unexpected Partners: Self-Taught Art and Modernism in Interwar America


Richard Meyer’s book, Master of the Two Left Feet: Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered will be published by MIT Press to coincide with the opening of the show. It includes a catalog of works by Susan Davidson that documents and illustrates Hirshfield’s entire body of painting.

On September 23 at 4:30 pm Richard Meyer will be hosting a book signing event at the Museum. The book is available to purchase at the Museum and in our online Shop. Become a member today and receive a 10% discount on the book and all purchases


Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered is supported in part by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, the David Berg Foundation, the Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Foundation, the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, the Stacy C. Hollander Fund for Exhibitions, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Robert Lehman Foundation, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature. Learning and engagement programs are sponsored in part by Con Edison, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Sparkjoy Foundation.

Artworks

Morris Hirshfield (1872, Poland–1946, United States), The Artist and His Model, 1945.Oil on canva, 44 x 34 in. American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of David L. Davies, 2002.23.1. ©2022 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Estate of Morris Hirshfield, licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Morris Hirshfield (1872, Poland–1946, United States) Tiger, 1940. Oil on canvas, 28 x 39 7/8 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund, 1941, 328.1941. © 2022 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Estate of Morris Hirshfield / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. 

Morris Hirshfield (1872, Poland–1946, United States), Girl with Pigeons, 1942, Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 1/8 inches, The Museum of Modern Art, 610.1967. © 2022 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Estate of Morris Hirshfield, licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Morris Hirshfield (1872, Poland–1946, United States), Stage Beauties, 1944. Oil on canvas, 40 x 48 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Carroll and Donna Janis, 2013.1118. © 2022 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Estate of Morris Hirshfield / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. 

Reviews
"Lauded by folk art advocates and Surrealists alike."
– The New York Times
"Morris Hirshfield, A Once Obscure Self-Taught Artist, Is Having A Major Resurgence."
– ARTnews
"In less than a decade, he was embraced by the Surrealists, collected by Peggy Guggenheim and given a solo show at MoMA."
– T Magazine
"His first full-career retrospective features upwards of 40 paintings and 14 boudoir slippers fabricated in his patented designs."
– Hyperallergic