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Symposia & Lectures
27 Jan 2023

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

Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered features over 40 of the artist’s paintings (more than half of his output) as well as photographic and audio archives that trace the painter’s brief but sensational career in New York. This exhibition reintroduces to scholars, historians, and the contemporary audience a singular artist whose work has been obscured since his death in 1946. 

In the symposium “Unexpected Partners: Self-Taught Art and Modernism in Interwar America,” Morris Hirshfield’s remarkable production and contentious reception serve as a springboard for a broader consideration of modernism’s complex interchange with self-taught art in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. Panelists revisit a vital moment during the interwar period when vanguard and self-taught art were in dialogue through new research into key episodes such as Morris Hirshfield’s embrace by the Surrealists who decamped to New York as fascism rose in Europe or William Edmondson’s experience as the first Black and self-taught artist to be given a solo exhibition at MoMA. 

Talks highlight the important contributions that self-taught artists made to the development of modernism in the United States, redressing these artists’ gradual exclusion from the art-historical canon in the postwar era and fleshing out a more representative narrative of American art.

Watch a recording of Session 1 here.

Watch a recording of Session 2 here.

Watch a recording of Session 3 here.

Click here to read the symposium proceedings.

Speakers include: Bill Anthes, Esther Adler, Susan Davidson, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Lynne Cooke, Jane Kallir, Jennifer Jane Marshall, Richard Meyer, Angela Miller, Rodrigo Moura, Marci Kwon, Valérie Rousseau, Nicole Smythe-Johnson and Brooke Wyatt.

“Unexpected Partners: Self-Taught Art and Modernism in Interwar America” is presented in partnership with the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University. This symposium is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art. 


Left: Hermann Landshoff, André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst [standing behind Morris Hirshfield’s Nude at the Window (Hot Night in July)], and Leonora Carrington (seated) at Peggy Guggenheim’s townhouse, Fall 1942, New York, NY, Digital print (original: gelatin silver print, 60 x 60 in.). © bpk. Digital image: bpk-Bildagentur/Münchner Stadtmuseum/Hermann Landshoff/Art Resource, New York

Right: Morris Hirshfield, Nude at the Window (Hot Night in July), 1941, Oil on canvas with collage, 54 1/4 x 30 3/4 inches. © Carroll Janis, licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

11:00 am–5:00 pm

Virtual; free with registration