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John D. Graham

JOHN D. GRAHAM’S NAME comes up whenever the origins of Abstract Expressionism are discussed, but his role in its development has remained shadowy. His stature as an artist is just as obscure at this time; however, the current show at the Museum of Modern Art, small though it is, may prompt an overdue rehabilitation.1 Although I believe that Graham’s painting has yet to receive the critical attention it deserves, I will refer to it only in passing, focusing instead on his contribution as an esthetician and connoisseur in the 1930s.

During that decade, vanguard artists organized themselves into groups such as the American Abstract Artists and The Ten. A number, including Graham, Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning and, to a lesser degree, David Smith (who did not get along with Gorky but saw Graham frequently), also constituted a group but in the loosest sense of that word. They

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