New York

Lawrence Vail

Noah Goldowsky Gallery

My suspicion is that the more firmly entrenched our nationalist myth becomes—Abstract Expressionism as the protean style of new art—the more will grow in stature those figures who presently fill in the swells and hollows of the petites histoires. In this connection, the new positioning of Lawrence Vail (1891–1968) is exemplary. Still known by an audience of aficionados, Vail’s work is now being considered in terms isolated from the piquant details of his biography. 

For the most part, Vail’s interest has been tied to our curiosity with the Surrealist roots of Abstract Expressionism—not so much because these roots in Vail’s case provide important formal clues to the morphology of Abstract Expressionism, but because they tie into our fascination with private history. After all, Vail was twice husband—to Peggy Guggenheim and Kay Boyle—and four times father. Perhaps the most famous child being

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