MKR’s Art Outlook

  • Posted on Dec 05, 2012 by

Part of my job as an intern at the Frick Art Reference Library this past summer entailed looking through the periodicals collection—more specifically, assessing the condition of old magazines, journals, and newspapers. After examining dozens of publications, I concluded that nothing is more telling of a time or generation than the advertisements, headlines, editorial opinions, and photographs contained within their pages, including the documenting of artists and artworks through text and images.

MRK's Art Outlook
MRK’s Art Outlook, February 1946

With this in mind, I was particularly taken by MKR’s Art Outlook, which was a monthly magazine written, edited, and published by the art critic Maude Kemper Riley from February through September 1946. Riley started the publication under a different name in 1945 and continued it as MKR’s Art Weekly in October 1946. The magazine was published through the beginning of May 1947. Outlook focused on art of its time, a subject of which I knew little. I had seen the works of some of the artists Riley discussed, such as Max Beckmann, but I had no comprehension of how they fit within the turbulent, chaotic times before, during, and after World War II.

While examining the 1946 issues of Outlook, I noticed a column published from February through June entitled “An Artist’s Faith,” which quoted contemporary artists on what they believed to be the purpose, inspiration, and philosophy behind their works. It struck me as intriguing to have artists speak candidly about their philosophies and reasons for making art. They wrote statements that were both articulate and uncommon—sometimes relating to their newest works and other times expressing generalized viewpoints.  Riley chose the featured artists in conjunction with exhibitions she reviewed in the same issue. Karl Knaths, Rufino Tamayo, Conrad Albrizio, Edward John Stevens  Jr., Nathaniel Kaz, Philip Evergood, Max Beckmann, and Manfred Schwartz participated in the series.

In the February issue, the abstractionist Karl Knaths claimed that with “the values of goodness and beauty, becoming confused, it became necessary to explore the abstract,” (Knaths, 7). In the same issue, Rufino Tamayo expressed the belief that art was about exploring within limitations, stating “the few painters who keep within this precious restriction and yet discover new possibilities are those [to] whom I give my respect and admiration,” (Tamayo, 6).

Edward John Steven, Jr.’s Cusco Markey
Edward John Steven, Jr.’s Cusco Market

Conrad Albrizio explained in the March issue that his new exhibition was “the sum of experience,” with the aim being, “to determine the forms necessary to the clear communication of a vital painting,”(Albrizio, 4), and Edward John Stevens Jr., aspired for “universal appeal” with his works (Stevens, 6).

Philip Evergood’s Through the Mill

In the following months, Nathaniel Kaz wrote about his sculptures mirroring the dynamic changes in social development (Kaz, 7), and Philip Evergood claimed that the artist must go beyond the simple “technical skill” and communicate to the “inner senses of people,” (Evergood, 7).  The most renowned of the artists to be featured in the “An Artist’s Faith” column, Beckmann, stated that “reality is the greatest mystery of our imagination” and thus “to experience the invisible, devote yourself entirely to the visible,” (Beckmann, 6).

Manfred Schwartz’s Jacob’s Ladder
Manfred Schwartz’s Jacob’s Ladder

Perhaps Outlook saved the best for last when Manfred Schwartz in the September 1946 issue summed up that “in art it is nobility and its own purity which attract me the most… which stems from the human spirit.” Through this human spirit “the impalpable becomes palpable through the unending play of shapes, color and resonance,” (Schwartz, 2).  

I think that the artists included in “An Artist’s Faith” understood that the chaotic times in which they lived were a catalyst for expressing the changes within their worlds through the use of pure forms, basic lines, and colors. I feel that they were able to express the “new” in terms that appealed to the universality of emotions. The subjects in Tomayo’s works, for example, are distorted, with their bright contrasting colors, geometric shapes, and dark outlines. They are oversimplified within the limitation of their black edges, and the “hot colors formally placed in an informally conceived arrangement” give us the sense of suffering that Riley described in Outlook (Riley, 4).

Rufino Tamayo’s Serpant and Jaguar

Having studied the Old Masters, I find the work of the modern artists discussed in Outlook to be off-putting and difficult to understand. Non-traditional in technique and aesthetics, the art is uncompromising in its depiction of suffering. The purpose of the “An Artist’s Faith” column was to explain the ideas behind the art being produced at the time. Even today, the column offers a very useful record of the aims, inspirations, and aspirations of the artists whom it quoted.

Madeline High, assisted by Maud Johnson, Interns, Frick Art Reference Library

Works Cited:

Albrizio, Conrad A. "An Artist's Faith." MKR’s Outlook March 1946: 4. Beckmann, Max. "An Artist's Faith." MKR’s  Outlook May 1946: 6.

Evergood, Phil. "An Artist's Faith." MKR’s Outlook May 1946: 7.

Kaz, Nathaniel. "An Artist's Faith." MKR’s Outlook April 1946: 7.

Knaths, Karl. "An Artist's Faith." MKR’s Outlook Feb. 1946: 7.

Riley, Maude Kemper. "Rufino Tamayo." MKR’s Outlook Feb. 1946: 4.

Schwartz, Manfred. "An Artist's Faith." MKR’s Outlook June 1946: 2.

Stevens, Edward John Jr. "An Artist's Faith." MKR’s Outlook March 1946: 6.

Tamayo, Rufino. "An Artist's Faith." MKR’s Outlook Feb. 1946: 6.

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