George McNeil


George McNeil Biography

American, 1908-1995

George McNeil (1908-1995) had a career that spanned the entire postwar American art era. McNeil attended Pratt Institute and the Art Students’ League, where he studied with Jan Matulka. From 1932-36, he studied with Hans Hofmann, becoming Hofmann's studio classroom monitor. In 1936 he worked for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project and became one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists group. McNeil was one of the few abstract artists whose work was selected for the New York World's Fair in 1939. During World War II, he served in the US Navy.
In the late 1940s McNeil taught at the University of Wyoming and then taught art and art history at Pratt Institute until 1980, influencing generations of young artists.
A pioneer Abstract Expressionist of the New York School, McNeil had over forty solo exhibitions during his lifetime. Between the ’40s and until the mid ’60s his art was decidedly abstract but it was always joined to metaphor.

From the ’70s onward, McNeil explored ways to expand beyond the cannons of the Abstract Expressionism. In this period his work became more figurative, drawing inspiration from the dynamic life of the city, its dancers, discos and sports. Throughout his career as a painter McNeil commanded a mastery technique, capable of creating paintings of rich texture depth and color. In 1989, McNeil was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

George McNeil's work is represented in numerous museum collections around the country, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; Whitney Museum of America Art, New York, New York; San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
George McNeil died in January of 1995 in New York.

Pratt Institute, New York, NY
Art Students League, New York, NY
Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, New York, NY
Columbia University, New York, NY

1999, North Dakota Museum of Art, Solo Exhibition
1999, Hyde Collection Art Museum, Solo Exhibition
1993, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion
1993, New York Studio School, Solo Exhibition
1992, Tuscon Museum of Art
1991, Smith College Museum of Art
1991, Montclair Art Museum, Solo Exhibition
1989, University of Hartford, Solo Exhibition
1988, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA
1986, University of Bridgeport, Carlson Gallery, Solo Exhibition
1985, Blum Institute, Bard College
1985, Kansas City Art Institute
1985, State University of New York, Binghamton
1984, Artists’ Choice Museum, New York, Solo Exhibition
1983, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton
1982, Jorgensen Gallery, University of Connecticut, Storrs
1982, Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Solo Exhibition
1977, University Art Gallery, University of New Mexico
1972, 1987, Brooklyn Museum
1969, Des Moines Art Center
1966, Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina
1964, 1966, 1968, Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas, Austin
1963, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
1962, Wadsworth Atheneum
1962, 1966, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
1961, Yale University Art Gallery
1961, Cleveland Museum of Art
1961, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1960, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts
1958, Carnegie Institute
1956, De Young Museum, San Francisco, Solo Exhibition
1954-55, Stable Gallery
1953, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1968, 1984, Whitney Museum of American Art
1951, 9th Street Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture
1951, 1969, 1985, Museum of Modern Art
1950, 1990, Provincetown Art Association and Museum
1947, Art Institute of Chicago
1939, New York Worlds Fair

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Smithsonian Institution, New York, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, IL
Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA
Smith College Art Museum, Northampton, MA
Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, MA
Michener Collection, University of Texas, Austin, TX
University of Michigan Art Museum, Ann Arbor, MI
New York University, Gray Art Gallery, New York, NY
Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Newark Museum of Art, Newark, NJ
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Oklahoma City Art Museum, Oklahoma City, OK
University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, NM
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
Neuberger Museum, SUNY Purchase, Purchase, NY
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England

American Abstract Artists
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
1963, Ford Foundation Purchase
1967, National Council on the Arts
1969, Guggenheim Fellow
1982, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award
1971, 1975-76, 1984, Tamarind Artist in Residence
1985, Avery Chair, Bard College, Blum Institute

1946-48, University of Wyoming
1948-80, Pratt Institute
1956-57, University of California, Berkeley
1966-80, New York Studio School

George McNeil was one of the most important and influential New York School artists and teachers of his generation. There is no period during his six-decade long career in which his work is not highly regarded. McNeil’s work has been prominently and widely exhibited ever since his debut as one of only five non-objective painters in the New York World’s Fair Show of 1939. Today, his work can be found in such important collections as: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, to name a few.
Looking back on his lengthy career, McNeil must be considered one of the preeminent American expressionist painters of the 20th Century. His work evolved successfully from the post cubist abstract expressionism of his Hofmann School days, through the figurative expressionism of his mid-career during the 1960’s and 1970’s, to emerge as full-blown neo-expressionism in the 1980’s and 1990’s. With “avant-gardism” as his watchword McNeil was always at the forefront of the American expressionist movement. His extraordinary body of work pays tribute to his enormous talent and his uncompromising commitment to artistic growth.
In a statement prepared for a solo exhibition of his work at the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1985 McNeil commented, “I have been told that my abstract landscapes and my beat up figures make me a part of the New Expressionist movement. This disconcerts me because I have been an old expressionist for so long that it isn’t funny. I am like Moliere’s Monsieur Jourdain who was surprised to learn he had been speaking prose all his life.”