Art Reviews – Insights into the Artist

Wilson’s artworks were known to be displayed at galleries and shows in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.

VOSE GALLERY, BOSTON:

In a letter dated January 24, 1991, Robert C. Vose, Jr., of Vose Gallery, confirmed that the gallery “did give {Wilson} an exhibition in our galleries in Boston” and stated “We thought of {the paintings} of excellent quality, and much in the spirit of Frederick Waugh”.  A copy of the catalogue from a Spring 1957 exhibition at Vose:

Quotes from select critics are shown, including Marianne Moore, Kenneth Burke,  Edward Alden Jewell (art critic at The New York Times), and John Hall Wheelock.

In the New York Times Art Digest, an article entitled A $100,000 Tiff, dated October 1, 1934, accounts the bringing of a suit in New York “by Winslow Wilson, New York artist, formerly of Texas and abroad” at the Lime Rock annual art show.  The lawsuit is followed by a challenge by Wilson to a painting duel against Glenn Newell, a Connecticut artist as a result of a challenge.

On June 4, 1951, the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt’s in My Day, reported that she “visited an exhibition of paintings of the sea done by Winslow Wilson, at the Associated American Artists Galleries on Fifth Avenue”, and notes that she “found some of his paintings quite beautiful”.

In the New York Times Art Digest, June 1951, M.C., reviews the same art exhibit and notes “A representational painter, Wilson depicts these elements meticulously and with great technical skill.  One can feel the water’s wetness and the hardness of the rocks, so detailed the marks left by the water are clearly evident on them”.

The News – Newport, R.I. published a review on July 23, 1951 regarding the seascapes at the New York exhibit:

Winslow - Newport Daily News 1951 crop

On August 6, 1954, the Cape Ann Summer Sun published a review of a show at CASMA, reflecting upon a Pico Miran painting entitled “Merry-Go-Round”:

Cape Ann Summer Sun 1954

On August 13, 1954, Pico Miran wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Cape Ann Summer Sun, which is summarized in a post, as a response to the review above.  Please refer to the page link on the header entitled Letter to the Editor.

On November 13, 1957, the Bradford Building, Wilson’s home and Gloucester studio, caught fire and burned.  These articles from the Gloucester Daily Times provide not only factual information, but insights into Wilson:

On August 21, 1962, Helen Forman of The Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times, published a review regarding an art show at The Cape Ann Society of Modern Artists regarding a post-modern painting by Pico Miran entitled Helicoidal Labyrinth:

Gloucester Daily Times August 21, 1962

The Gloucester Daily Times article, dated August 7 (year unknown), is written as an exchange between ‘reviewer’ and ‘viewer’.

Reviewer: Here’s a whopper of a title. “Mechanical Man correlates Second Coming with Anthropophagic Experience”

Viewer: it’s Pico Miran. Another of his symbolic experiences.

R: Each  element must be related to the whole structure or the work of art will fall flat. Here I think we get an excellent inter-relation.

V: The symbols are image symbols. That is I feel they are concrete depictions, (poets call them images) but they take on the added “responsibility” of being symbolic in themselves – standing for something that will help put across the idea of the artist, in an artistic way.

R: Here I see and feels he decay of man, the decay of man-made machines, – the coldness, the anti-human qualities of mechanism. I get the idea that man yearns for a type of salvation. With his being led astray by his age, which is himself, he prostitutes the entire idea of salvation. This salvation is embodied in the Christ symbol. And I feel there is a sort of triple figure in the Christ figure – the hint of the Eucharist in the eaten flesh; the hint at the removal of the human qualities of the salvation also in the carrion; and the tenderness of the Christ figure surrounded by the rubble of old machinery, the ephemeral man-made mechanisms …

V: This painting bears. Lot of study and thought on our parts. To be sure it is a more difficult form of expression from the point of view of its symbolism. Still it is very valid in this age of chaos.

R: I think of Yeats again. Remember in his “Second Coming” he asks if the age needs a salvation, yet he wonders what it might be … “a rude shape…”

The painting discussed in this exchange is:

The-Mechanical-Logos-Taking-Communion-40x30

Another articles, likely also from The Gloucester Daily Times, has a date of around July 31st but no year. It is a review of the first show on the Eighth Anniversary of the Cape Ann Society of Modern Artists. If my math is correct the year would be 1966.

Excerpt from “First – Rate Show …” by Albert Jackson, Jr.

Pico Miran’s oil is a well executed surrealism painting which involves some study on the part of the viewer and bears an unusual descriptive title that goes like this: “Myself, when slightly over three inches in length, perturbed by ever-revolving wheels.”

We believe the painting discussed is:

Self-Portrait-of-a-Fetus-30x25

Peter Anastas, in Four Winds, The Arts & Letters of Rocky Neck in the 1950’s, dated June 15-September 29, 2013, noted that Pico Miran was a member of the Cape Ann Society of Modern Artists, who at the time “featured works by essentially non-figurative or otherwise avant-garde artists”, and that “Pico Miran was the name that figurative artist and Rockport Art Association teacher Winslow Wilson…adopted when he painted in a hyper-realist genre bordering on Surrealism that he “post-modern art”.

Further, in a presentation at the Cape Ann Museum on July 13, 2013, entitled  Coming of Age in the Rocky Neck Art Scene of the 1950s, Peter Anastas noted:

“…That bold review of mine was not without its defenders, one of whom turned out to be an artist who called himself Pico Miran.  He had another name—his real name, actually—Arthur Winslow Wilson [image.19.portrait of Wilson].  Wilson, a native of  Junction City, Texas had been the poet e.e.cummings’ roommate at Harvard.  The two had gone from college to Paris to paint and back to New York, where they shared a studio in the Village.  Cummings, who has been sadly neglected, was one of our finest early modernist poets.  He was also a considerable painter, who showed in major galleries.  Wilson, who retained studios in New York and on Cape Ann, beginning in the 1940s, taught portrait and landscape painting classes at the Rockport Art association and showed portraits and seascapes in Rockport.  But he also did another kind of painting, which, in a catalog essay for a 1951 exhibition of his work at the American Art Gallery in New York he called “the first exhibition of Post-modern art,” employing a term which the poet Charles Olson also brought into currency at the same time. [image.20. Pico note] [image.21.cover of 1951 catalog] Wilson also showed this highly experimental new work at CASMA, where he was known as Pico Miran, a name he derived from the Florentine Renaissance humanist philosopher and poet, Pico della Mirandola.

At first glance [images. 22.Pico Miran paintings] one might consider the paintings Surrealist in nature, but Wilson/Miran eschewed the term.  “I paint super-realistically,” he wrote in a letter to the editor from that summer.  “My work has no relation to that of Salvador Dali, whom I knew in Paris.”

I responded to Wilson’s letter to the editor and we exchanged several communications that summer before he invited me to his studio in the Bradford Building on Main Street.   What I discovered was a conventionally dressed older man, with thinning hair and a brown beret.  He ushered me into his sparsely furnished two room apartment in an old Gloucester redbrick downtown building that would sadly be demolished after a fire in the early 60s, a conflagration in which Wilson lost the only copy of an autobiography he had been working on for years.  We sat in a front room.  There were no paintings in evidence.  He gestured at the door to another room, where, he said he painted.  At the time I did not know Winslow Wilson and Pico Miran were the same person.

We sat and talked in a room that smelled faintly of turpentine and linseed oil.  He told me about his friendship with cummings, with whom he was still in touch (cummings had been the poet I had discovered and read principally during my first year in college).  He asked me if I had read anything by Samuel Beckett and I told him I had read Waiting for Godot and Beckett’s trilogy of novels, including Molloy and Malone Dies (they had actually been recommended to me the summer before by Albert Alcalay).  He told me that living in the Bradford building among single old men was like inhabiting a Beckett novel or play.  He also told me that he had been corresponding for a long time with the American philosopher and critic Kenneth Burke.  Wilson’s conversation was as literate and knowledgeable as his letters.  He explained to me that one of the themes that lay behind his paintings was the fear of a nuclear holocaust and its subsequent annihilation of all forms of life.  He said it was the reigning anxiety of our time, that Beckett’s novels, written in French during and after the war, were the primary art of our post-war, post-atomic bomb world [image.23.Pico Miran paintings]

My meeting and talks with Wilson-Miran brought to a close the summer of 1957 after which I returned to college.  Wilson and I corresponded over the next several years.  He sent me two books by Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change, and A Philosophy of Literary Form, which had a significant impact on my thinking about literature and which I still own… “

Peter Anastas wrote:

“Meanwhile, I thought you might be interested in some information about Arthur at Harvard, which my friend David Rich, a Gloucester writer and Harvard graduate himself, has just shared with me.   Like me, Dave, who is a writer and historian, has been fascinated by Arthur’s story and his art, especially the Pico Miran series.

This is what Dave wrote:

“Intrigued by references to fiction and poems written by Arthur Wilson (Tex, Winslow, Pico Miran) while he was an undergraduate at Harvard and affiliated, like E.E. Cummings, with the Harvard Monthly, I discovered two stories, several poems and a piece of criticism in the 1912 edition of the Monthly (it folded with the outbreak of war, 1917) — and undoubtedly, Wilson had talent. Eventually he earned a graduating class — 1915 — but in 1912, when he was most actively writing, he was categorized as uC — unclassified — but not a special student, which was designated with an Sp.

    “Being unclassified sounds about right for Wilson. His 1912 material — very interesting. The poems are good for what they are, a specifically Harvard brand of late symbolism. But his stories! — only two survive, but, my, they are precocious. The first I read, called A Simple Heart, follows a laundry girl new to the city named Margery who is jilted by a Harvard undergraduate; when he sends her a curt, dismissive note, she drowns herself in the Charles River. The second, called The Ominous Tract, covers territory that would have been familiar to Wilson, despite its seemingly exotic location — Mexico, or the interaction of American and Mexican farmers on the border, as played out in a soured, mixed marriage. The poems and the stories could have been written by two entirely separate people — and it seems that from the beginning he was torn between realism and dreamscapes, unable to fully reconcile these rival halves.
 
    “The March, 1912 issue of the Harvard Monthly was in and of itself really compelling — the Lawrence Strike was in full swing and Harvard had sent its undergraduates to join militias that policed and harassed strikers — Cuthbert Wright wrote an attack on the realist, free-verse poet John Hall Wheelock, called Poetry of the Gutter. And Clarence Britten, the editor in chief, opened the issue with an editorial supportive of Harvard militia men used in the strike, while someone named Richard Douglas wrote glowing praise, in purple prose, of Malden judge Leroy Sweetser who was their commanding officer. The dissenting notes were: the realist stories of Wilson himself, which were sympathetic to working people, especially A Simple Heart, and, secondly, a defense of the strikers, backed by financial data and history, written by Gerard C. Henderson, who was president of the Harvard Socialist Club.”
On November 1, 2016, A.S. Amberson added Winslow Wilson to the American Gallery – 20th Century listing, accessible here.  This website contains a growing compendium of “Greatest American Artists” of the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
On February 26, 2017, Catherine Ryan wrote an insightful article, posted on GMG (Good Morning Gloucester), entitled “Rediscovered Artist: Seeking Information on Arthur William Wilson (1892-1974) Also Known As “Tex”, Winslow Wilson and Pico Miran Active NYC, Rockport, Gloucester”.  The article reflects Catherine’s reading of biographical and research information on this site, along with insights and information reflective of her expertise in this era and material.  Catherine, a Gloucester resident, has an impressive resume, including experience as an art dealer and gallery co-director in New York City for more than 20 years, art advisor, and independent curator/historian.  She has been involved in HarborWalk since 2010; Mayor’s Representative on Gloucester’s Committee for the Arts since August 2012; and instrumental in forming Gloucester’s downtown Cultural District (GHCD) (2011-2014). She served on the Gloucester tourism commission and Wenham Museum Council.
April, 2017:  trying to understand the artist who was my grandfather, based upon poring through research, speaking with Cape Ann residents, some of whom personally knew the artist, and looking at his artwork, I find growing evidence that the artist and his connection Gloucester are intricately entwined in a beautiful, inextricable manner.  Wilson passed away in 1974, having relocated to Miami for the last 1-2 years of his life.  Looking at the 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973 Christmas cards (the only cards I have seen), illustrates this insight, especially  noting his commemoration “for the Gloucester Fisherman”:

Thank you so much to Joann MacKenzie for her Wednesday, July 5, 2017 front page article in the Gloucester Daily Times!  Her enthusiasm and effort to understand the artist has resulted in some new information and contacts which is being compiled as part of a larger research and exhibition project.  The article can be accessed here.

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