Curated by Graham Nickson and Rachel Rickert in collaboration with the artist’s estate, the exhibition features works from both public and private collections as well as Anderson’s gallery, Leigh Morse Fine Arts. Ranging from figurative works like Mrs. Suzy Peterson (1959) to the unfinished painting Three Nymphs on a Bluff left on his easel in 2015, the exhibition brings together a variety of genres, such as the human form, still life, portrait, landscape, and streetscape. Viewed together, the works attest to Anderson’s lifelong interest in the interplay of tone, color, and light. Speaking with Jennifer Samet in 2002, Anderson explained, “When you look at nature from a distance, you can see how it all fits together. There is a harmony, and that is what interests me.” The presentation also demonstrates the singular approach that informed his artmaking, which defied trends such as Abstract Expressionism.
Described in the New York Times as one of the “most prominent and admired painters to translate figurative art into a modern idiom,” Anderson had a profound interest in formalism and an appreciation for both Old and New Masters, especially Piero della Francesca, Diego Velázquez, and Edgar Degas, and his work was directly inspired by this knowledge of art history. For instance, Idyll 4 (2012) is one of four paintings inspired by Claude Poussin that depict pastoral bliss, a subject Anderson began exploring in the 1970s.
Born in Detroit, Anderson earned an undergraduate degree at the Art Institute of Chicago, a Masters at Cranbrook Academy, and later studied briefly at the Art Students League in New York with Edwin Dickinson. Anderson taught at several prestigious schools, including Columbia University, Princeton University, and Yale University, before serving as a distinguished professor of Brooklyn College. He received numerous awards, including the Prix de Rome, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tiffany Foundation. Anderson was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Academy of Design. Anderson’s work is represented in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Fralin Art Museum, Palmer Museum of Art, and Delaware Art Museum, among others.
This exhibition has been spearheaded by the artist’s daughter, Jeanette Anderson Wallace, who manages the estate for the artist’s family. Of the process of bringing together this collection of works to show the scope of Anderson’s practice, she says “It has been particularly meaningful to bring out paintings that have not been seen by the public for many years, and introduce a new generation of painters, curators, and collectors to his work.”
Co-curators Graham Nickson, Dean of the NYSS, and Rachel Rickert, Exhibitions Coordinator, comment “Lennart Anderson was a terrific painter; his works are pure obsession made palpable in paint. He mused constantly about tone, surface abstraction and measure. He painted things, people, and places in relationship. Anderson’s work is never exactly what one expects. Perceptual works transcend observation and synthetic move into territory of belief. In this exhibition, we pull together a collective force of his slow works for the unacquainted to understand and revel in their profundity. Lennart was a great wit, so serious it allowed for surprises in his painting. He had an absolute passion for Degas and yet an attraction to DeKooning. He shaped his own vision with links to the great tradition from Roman times to present day. Lennart painted firmly and resolutely to the end. His warm shadow in the cool landscape is still with us.” NYSS will present a virtual lecture the evening of Tuesday, October 26, 2021 to delve into Anderson’s work: “The Unexplained is Irresistible: A Discussion On the Work of Lennart Anderson with Jennifer Samet, Brian Schumacher, Amy Weiskopf & John Yau, Moderated by A’Dora Phillips.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue that pairs more than fifty full color reproductions of Anderson’s work with essays by art historians Martica Sawin and Jennifer Samet and painters Susan Jane Walp and Paul Resika. It is available for pre-order now from New York Studio School and independent bookstores. An in-person catalogue launch will be hosted by the Milton Resnick and Pat Pasloff Foundation on Saturday, November 13, 2021, a fitting location as Anderson, Resnick and Pasloff worked together in the Lower East Side and remained life-long friends. David Cohen, the publisher of artcritical, will moderate a conversation with curator Rachel Rickert and painters Kyle Staver and Steve Hicks.
Following its presentation at the New York Studio School, the exhibition will travel to other venues, including the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts and the Southern Utah Museum of Art.
Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), BNY Mellon, Center for Figurative Painting, Charina Foundation, Emily Mason | Alice Trumbull Mason Foundation, Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund, Richard T. Spurzem, The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation, Wolf Kahn | Emily Mason Foundation, private collectors, individuals, and anonymous patrons of the arts. Restoration for work in the Estate of Lennart Anderson has been generously donated by Simon Parkes Art Conservation in New York, NY.