Genevieve Arnold

Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia

Genevieve Arnold (1928–2005) was the kind of person for whom terms like doyenne and grande dame were invented. Little known outside the Southeast, she was an important presence on the Atlanta art scene for more than fifty years. A recent retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia reflected her cosmopolitan perspective and her implicit refusal to be labeled a “southern” or “regional” artist. It also chronicled the struggles of a midcentury painter to reconcile the twin poles of modernism: figuration and abstraction.

Arnold’s first canvases, from the late ’50s and early ’60s, look to Europe. Although these abstractions rely on gestural brushstrokes and saturated, nearly monochromatic color, Arnold seems not to have engaged directly with Abstract Expressionism. Rather, these works are indirectly reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s subdued early paintings. For Arnold, figuration and

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