George Lovett Kingsland Morris was educated at Groton and Yale. In 1929, Morris traveled to Paris with his cousin, the artist and collector A. E. Gallatin. While in Paris, Morris became friendly with Jean Hélion, who provided introductions to Braque, Picasso, and Brancusi. During his time in Paris, Morris studied with Fernand Leger and Amédée Ozenfant at the Académie Moderne.
In 1931, Morris built his own art studio on the grounds of his parents’ country estate in the Berkshire Mountains, modeling it after that of Ozenfant’s studio, which had been designed by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Morris took additional trips to Europe in the 1930s, collecting European abstract art – often from artists he personally knew.
While traveling in Europe with A. E. Gallatin and collecting contemporary Modern art for his own collection, Morris also acted as a curator for Gallatin’s Museum of Living Art – the first museum in the United States exclusively devoted to Modern art. (Gallatin’s museum opened in 1927; the Museum of Modern Art opened in 1929.) Morris and Gallatin subsequently collected works by the members of American Abstract Artists, a group that Morris had co-founded, in 1936, with a number of other artists – several of whom are represented in this exhibition.
Cosmopolitan and erudite, A. E. Gallatin and George L. K. Morris were soon joined by the artists Suzy Frelinghuysen, and Charles B. Shaw in their passionate commitment to abstraction – both as artists and patrons. The group became known as “The Park Avenue Cubists.” In 1935, Morris married Suzy Frelinghuysen who remarkably was successful both as a painter and as a world-renowned opera singer.
Morris admired the geometric order of Cubism and was insistent that art should be made for its own sake and not to reflect social causes, like the popular are of Social Realism of the 1930s. He furthered his influence on behalf of abstract art as an editor and art critic for the Partisan Review. In an article Morris wrote for the Partisan Review, he state, “The hour is overdue for a refinement of sensibility in our vulgar modern world: perhaps, against the pressures of contemporary life, the artist can again concentrate on the creation of the beautiful object.”
While Morris exhibited with some frequency during the 1930s and 1940s, his paintings and sculpture received greatest recognition after World War II. Morris remained steadfast in his devotion to his variant form of Cubism, even though many of his friends and colleagues turned to more expressionist styles in the postwar years. Indeed, in the 1950s, Morris’ paintings of receding checkerboard patterns would anticipate the Op Art movement of the mid- to late-1960s.
Works by George L. K. Morris can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum, and Carnegie Art Institute.