HUGO GNAM - Important American Furniture Designer, Award Winning Photographer and Cosmic Painter.
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Hugo Gnam 1899-1997
Studied: Zurich University and New York University with Winold Reiss
Memberships: Artists League of America, National Alliance of Artists and Craftsman, Allied Artists of America, Society of Independent Artists, and the Photo League, NY.
Exhibited: Brooklyn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Buffalo Museum, Roerich Museum, Riverside Museum, Albany Institute of History and Art, American Museum of Natural History, Rochester Institute of Technology, Stamford Museum, Bruce Museum, Architectural League, Norlyst Gallery, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York Worlds Fair (1939).
Awards:First Prize for Mural Excellence: American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsman held at the United States Pavillion at the 1939 World’s Fair.
Commissions: The Adler apartment (inventor of space shoes), Offices in the Empire State Building, Showrooms of Chrysler Engineering in Detroit, many projects with Joseph Urban.
References with works cited: Annual of American Design (1931), Studio Annual of Decorative Art(1933, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1941 and 1942), Norlyst Gallery catalog 1946, Beasts(1995). New York Times: A deco Original Bursts forth (1997).
Of note: Liberace borrowed Gnam’s paintings for his backdrop in concerts, Mark Rothko owned a Gnam painting, as well as Harriet and Sidney Janis.
Conversation with Hugo Gnam and Stuart Friedman of NY School Gallery: Arnold Boeklin and Ferdinand Hodler were my two big influences. I would see their work at the museums when I grew up in Switzerland. I had an early interest in exotic jungle scenes. I made my first painting in 1937, Jungle Scene9 feet x 15 feet. This painting was exhibited at the Society of Independent Artists in 1938, the Museum of Natural History, 1939, and Sidney Janis Gallery, 1939. My wife and I had an exotic antique shop on Second Avenue and 53rd Street, called The Jungle Mart. A client came into the shop asking who painted the Jungle Scene. She had been on many African adventures and felt that it had the ‘heat’ of the jungle I sold her two paintings that afternoon. Knoedler Gallery saw the Jungle scene and invited me to show examples at the gallery. They liked my work. Even though I have sold over 300 paintings at galleries and art shows, I have always felt that painting is an intensely personal matter. It is an artists delight to amuse himself, express himself and let his mind go on a fling. I like to think of my paintings as Rhapsodies of the mind. You paint and you are in a fever. The artist closes his eyes, daydreams a little, springs to his brushes, and suddenly there’s the sunset, just the way he dreamed about it. That’s why for me painting is bliss.
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