Egian Girl, 1942

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West in her studio with a black & white masterwork from 1947.
Clement Greenberg, one of the main champions and critics of the Abstract Expressionist Movement particularly liked this work


1908 Corinne West(Michael West's birth name) born in Chicago Illinois, to William Porter West Jr. and May Westerman. Her mother was the younger sister of the political cartoonist, Harry James Westerman. The painter Charles Burchfield was a relative on her father's side.

1911 The West family moves to Colombus, Ohio. William West is employed at the Iron Clay Brick Co. He becomes a well-known lecturer on the history of bricks. Corinne starts playing the piano at the age of 5.

1925 Family moves to Cincinnati, Ohio. Corinne attends the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the Cincinnati Art Academy. At this point she could have been a concert pianist and plays complex pieces by composers like Rachmaninoff and Bartok. However, she wants to study painting. She takes portraiture under John Weis and Frank Meyers. Her portrait in oils is painted by the Cincinnati School artist, Myer Abel.

1930 Also an actress, she played the role of Vivian in The Passing of the Third Floor Backat the then popular Cincinnati Actors Theater.

1931 West and Randolph Nelson, the actor who played the lead role in this play marry. But their marriage in this same year ends in divorce. West's family moves to Stamford,Connecticut. Corinne stays in Greenwich at Chateau Lafayette.

1931 & 1932 West then moves to 21 West 10th Street, and next to Bank Street in Greenwich Village, New York City. She attends the Traphagen School of Fashion. However, in 1932 West decides to pursue her interest in painting and attends the historic Hans Hofmann class (1st)at the Art Student's League. Mercedes Carles (Matter), Harry Holtzman, George McNeil, Lillian Olinsky (Kiesler), Burgoyne Diller, Betty Parsons, Louise Nevelson and Irene Rice-Pereira were some of her classmates. It is here that Hans Hofmann spreads his important theories on painting.

1934 Switches from the Hofmann class to Raphael Soyer's class. "I have had enough of 'maestros'." While she learned some of the greatest art theories of the 20th Century, she believed it was too much of a cult. She felt she could work out her painting problems better with Raphael Soyer. In a recent article written by Raphael Soyer about his days at the Art Student's League, he refers to Michael West as "too brilliant". He was referring to some of his students who were very independent and who had original ideas. West also briefly studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller (Fall, 1934)at the Art Student's League.

1934 Lorenzo Santillo, a class monitor, introduced West to Arshile Gorky. West and Gorky had an intimate relationship which lasted for years. Both artists had recent divorces and both were truly devoted to art. Arshile Gorky paints a portrait of West which is sold to Edmund Greacen, the director of the Grand Central School of Art where Gorky taught and lectured. The family moves to Rochester, NY.

1935 Michael West exhibits at the 22nd Annual Exhibition of Rochester Artists held at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery and receives critical acclaim for Portrait of Manuella. She and Gorky drive to Philadelphia (West's father loans them his car)to go to his 1st one-man show at Boyer Galleries.

1936 Arshile Gorky seeks to continue his relationship with Michael West and sends the famous passionate letters which have been written about, first by Ethel Schwabacher in the first Gorky Monograph from 1957. Western Union telegrams are sent as well. This is the year that she is commissioned to create 14 mural panels for the Ballet Petrouchka. Gorky visits her in Rochester. West has her first one-woman show at The Rochester Arts Club where she shares a studio with the sculptress Fanny Benjamin. At her show, Michael West lectures about the "New Art" which is comprised of Hofmann's theories, Picasso, Cubism, etc., to a standing room only crowd. She sold-out all her drawings from this exhibit. She still maintains her Greenwich Village apartment and the studio in Rochester. She and Gorky decide on the name Mikael because Arshile thought Corinne sounded like a "debutante's daughter".

1939 West exhibits an oil in The Rochester Memorial Art Gallery's Fingerlakes Exhibition titled, Plastic Spatial Concept and continues to exhibit there yearly. She visits Gorky in NY and they go the World's Fair.

1941 West changes the name Mikael to Michael. She is painting in a Cubist style much like Picasso and Juan Gris. She exhibits s pastel entitled Abstract Still Life in the Rochester Fingerlakes Exhibition, held at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery . Gorky marries Agnes Magruder.

1942 Composes the poem The New Art. It is one of a series of 50 poems created through the 1940's. She states that most of her poetry is about painting.

1943 Exhibits two drawings: Composition and Cubist Still Life in the Rochester Fingerlakes Exhibition.

1945 Meets Richard Pousette-Dart. They learn much from each other. He urges her to get rid of the "Juan Gris-Picasso style". He photographs her at his Sutton Place Studio and she creates a poem about him titled, To a Great Mystic. Their friendship has a mutual interest in the mystical or spiritual aspect of artistic creation. At the end of this year, She develops an Abstract Expressionist painting style as loose and powerful as Jackson Pollock's. She exhibits in a group show at Pinacotheca Gallery (owned by Rose Fried). Also in this show, are Rothko, Kaldis, Schnitzler, and other artists that would become part of the New York School of Painters.

1946 Jacson Pollock and Peggy Guggenheim visit Michael west at her studio. They probably saw her work at Pinacotheca Gallery and had to see more. Peggy said that she painted "life". However, she didn't follow up. Was there room for only one Jackson Pollock in her stable? Were the works too wild and expressive for a woman? They both loved the work: Man with a Cello

1948 West maintains her 1150 Fifth Avenue studio. In 1948, West married for a second time. Francis Lee was famous for his World War ll D-Day film and his interview with Picasso after the liberation of Paris. His photographs appeared in the avant-garde journal, Possibilities. He also interviewed Matisse for this important publication which was organized by Robert Motherwell, John Cage, and others. Francis Lee who was involved with many of the Surrealists, hosted parties and get-togethers at his New York City loft. This was a natural meeting place because he had the largest artis's loft in the city. Francis Lee became known as an avant-garde filmmaker and had numerous shows at museums and film archives. West exhibits Transfiguration, Mystic Energy, and other oils of the 40's at Rose Fried Gallery and sells a few. Used a pouring and palette knife technique which was not unlike Dubuffet and Pollock. Arshile Gorky tragically commits suicide on July 21st.

1949 Nihilism was painted in this year which is akin to Jay DeFeo's The Rose from the 1950's. Like the Rose, it is exceedingly heavy. West used a mixture of oil, sand and other debris and applied it with pouring, and used a palette knife as well. And, like DeFeo's Rose, Nihilism explodes from the center outward.

1950 The 1950's introduces a radical departure. The works become more linear and are characterized by intersecting lines and planes and extreme movement. Though the style has changed, the energy emitting from the canvas has not. Many of Michael West's paintings are based on objects, that may just be on her studio table. A miraculous transformation takes place which elevates these everyday objects into form bristling with energy.

1951 West and Lee meet with Hans Hofmann at the Cedar Bar. They discuss Hofmann's use of color.

1952 Meets with the master composer Edgar Varese and is thoroughly affected by Deserts his famous atonal work. Later paints a picture called Desert Sounds which is exhibited in 1957.

1953 West is invited to exhibit st the Painters and Sculptor's Artist's Annual of 1953. A Stable Gallery poster is issued with the names of all the participants.

1957 In November, West is given a one-woman show at the Uptown gallery. 31 paintings are shown. Visits with Claire Goll, the wife of Ivan Goll, a French Poet in the circle of Surrealists whom Francis Lee knew in Paris. Attends party at her friends, who are the founders of the avant-garde Living Theater, Judith Malina and Julien Beck.

1958 One woman show at the Domino Gallery in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

1960 West and Francis Lee divorce. West's work changes and there is a concentration with the center of the canvas. In this decade she works alot in a 4 foot x 5 foot canvas size.

1963 In December, West is given a one-woman show at Granite Gallery on 57th Street in NY City.

1966 In May, West is given a one-woman show at Dolly Carlson's Imaginary Art on Madison Avenue in NY City. Many pieces sell.

1968 By this point in the 1960's, West produced numerous canvases related to world events. In 1963, a strong gestural work was made relating to the Kennedy Assasination. She created a series of poem-paintings related to the Viet Nam war, also paints Homages to Hofmann, Frank O'Hara, and Gorky, all important people in her life.

1974 Her 1970's work is characterized by an openness. She does a series of 75" x 40" inch canvases related to the 'square'. She wanted to see them installed together in an Educational Institution. The Galerie Mouffe in Paris sends contract for large one-woman show in 2 locations in Paris and which would then travel to Japan. However West is unable to pay the shipping costs and gallery fees.

1976 Exhibits at group show Gallerie International, NY City. She is then given a one-woman show. Suffers a stroke and has an aneurism of the stomach. Exhibits drawings at Finch College, NY City.

1978 Has three shows at WomanArt Gallery on 57th Street, NY City. Covarrubias purchases oil. Also exhibits in group show at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, NY City.

1979 Last show at WomanArt. Decides she just wants to paint - tired of exhibiting.

1980 The 80's are characterized by paintings with white paint cryptic calligraphy as a last layer to the canvas. Despite her ill-health, West continues to paint.

1991 West dies in her NY City apartment/studio.