PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth Abbey School is proud to present the artwork of Rhode Island abstract artist William Grosvenor Congdon (1912–1998) through an exhibition titled “A Life’s Journey: The Work of William Congdon” in the McEvoy Gallery of the McGuire Fine Arts Center. The exhibition will be open to the public Sundays, May 7 and 14, from noon to 3 p.m.
William Congdon was born in Providence, attended St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts, and received a degree in English literature from Yale University in 1934. In the years following, Congdon studied drawing, painting and sculpting under the likes of Henry Hensche and George Demetrios until 1942, when he joined the American Field Service as an ambulance driver, serving with the British Ninth and Eighth Armies in World War II. Congdon returned to the United States in 1948, where his work as an abstract expressionist quickly gained fame, ultimately leading to comparison with masters Jackson Pollock, Marc Rothko and Richard Pousette-Dart.
According to Mark Nadeau, head of visual arts at the school, art collector Peggy Guggenheim compared Congdon to the English painter J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) when discussing his paintings of Venice, Italy. Despite this success, Congdon moved to Venice in the early 1950s, where he converted to Roman Catholicism and created the bulk of his acclaimed religious pieces. He spent his remaining years living and painting at a monastery in Gudo Gambaredo, Italy near Milan.
The Congdon exhibition will showcase some of the artist’s works from 1935 to 1996, with a majority representing a significant 25-year span of his career. The exhibition is comprised of various sculptures, drawings and paintings, including Guernica (ca 1940), Spring 1950 (1950), Piazza San Marco (1957), Rome No.4 (1958) and Annunciation (1960).
The Portsmouth Abbey community graciously thanks collectors Richard Berkemeier, Emmylou and Evangeline Bush, and the Portsmouth Abbey Monastery for loaning the William Congdon pieces for this exhibition. According to Nadeau, “William Congdon was an important but often overlooked figure in the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, and it is a rare opportunity to view such a comprehensive chronology of his work in one venue.”
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