William Baziotes honored with display at Reading Public Museum
READING, Pa. – The Reading Public Museum is pleased to announce a centennial celebration of renowned artist William Baziotes in the Cohen Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art. Baziotes, who spent his formative years in Reading, would have been 100 years old this month.
On view through mid-July are three of Baziotes’ oil paintings from the early 1940s through the 1950s: Untitled, (Sailboat), from the 1950s, a recent gift (2008) from Marguerite and H. F. (Gerry) Lenfest; Moon Forms, 1947, a promised gift to the museum from Irv and Lois Cohen; and Untitled, (Girl on Beach),1941, a 1965 gift from Mr. and Mrs. James Mantis. Also included in the display are several recent gifts (2012) to The Museum from Mrs. Ethel Baziotes, widow of the artist, consisting of the artist’s original painting easel, a group of paint brushes, his “lucky painting shoes” and his horn-rimmed eyeglasses with case.
Scott Schweigert, the museum’s curator of art and civilization commented that “These personal items, along with fine representative paintings from Baziotes’ career, will provide visitors with unique insight into his life as an artist and his enduring legacy here in Reading, Pennsylvania.”
Born in Pittsburgh in 1912, William Baziotes moved with his family to Reading in 1913 when he was a year old. His parents were Greek immigrants who came there for business opportunities. The family ran a successful restaurant and bakery in the city. For a time, his father was a partner in the Crystal Restaurant on the 500 block of Penn Street in Reading. Baziotes also worked at J. M. Kase & Company, a stained glass manufacturer in the city from 1931 to 1933.
The artist moved to New York in 1933 on the recommendation of friend and Reading poet Byron Vazakas. He enrolled in classes at the National Academy of Design and absorbed influences of European modernism including Surrealism before adopting his mature abstract style.
His major breakthrough came in the mid 1940s, when he gained a reputation among fellow Abstract Expressionists in New York such as Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Beginning in the late 1940s, The Museum of Modern Art and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, The Art Institute in Chicago, and other major institutions acquired works by the artist. Baziotes taught at New York University, The Brooklyn Museum of Art School, and Hunter College in New York. The artist died in June, 1963.
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