Figure

Figure
Byron Browne
1907-1961
Acquisition Number: 87.1
Medium: paper
Size: 21" x 14"
Date: 1936

Byron Browne, one of the pioneers of American Abstract painting, was born on June 26, 1907 in Yonkers, New York. Between 1925 and 1928, Browne studied at the National Academy of Design where his first course was the study of antique casts, after which he progressed to life drawings. While he was still a student in 1927, Browne encountered Braque’s and Picasso’s Cubism at New York’s Gallery of Modern Art. By 1928, Browne destroyed much of his early work in a rejection of academician. He had become a modernist and few traces remained in his work of his training in traditional methods. The majority of Browne’s images are derived from the classical world, transformed by his personal brand of cubism. Roman and Greek hairstyles, laurel wreaths and draped clothing appear in a number of his paintings. Browne felt that everything, including the combination used in art, is first found in nature. In a notebook Browne began in June 1937 and continued to write though the late 1950s, he wrote: Man cannot imagine what does not exist already. I always paint with one eye on nature, and he further advised: To know design, go to nature. By 1946, Browne had had enough of joining groups and attending organized meetings. To find the solitude he needed Browne would often take long walks across the sand dunes playing the bagpipes, a talent which was self-taught. On Christmas Day in 1961, Byron Browne died at the age of 54. In 1968, his wife recalled, Byron was a kind of oddball. It wasn’t that he couldn’t talk, because he taught successfully for fourteen years at the League. But he was not a person given to talking. And he resented anything that took him away from painting.