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John Graham, Poussin m’instruit (Poussin Instructs Me), 1944, oil on panel, 60 × 48".

John Graham

Parrish Art Museum

John Graham, Poussin m’instruit (Poussin Instructs Me), 1944, oil on panel, 60 × 48".

Born in Kiev in 1886, a descendant of minor Polish nobility, Ivan Gratianovitch Dombrowski trained as a lawyer in his hometown, served in the Russian army, and in 1918 was briefly imprisoned as a counterrevolutionary; upon arriving in New York in 1920, he found work as a riding instructor. What led this thirty-six-year-old who’d never picked up a brush to enroll in the Art Students League in 1922? Who knows. But it turned the anti-Bolshevik émigré into one of the revolutionaries of American art. As John Graham, he was part of the triumvirate (along with Arshile Gorky and Stuart Davis) whom Willem de Kooning felt he had to look up as soon as he got to New York. In a city still artistically provincial, Graham was the painter best acquainted with the latest developments in Paris. His writings, including the book-length System and Dialectics of Art and the essay “Primitive Art and

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