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Richard Meyer: How to Make a Modern Primitive: The Case of Morris Hirshfield

Lectures are free and open to the public. Seating may be limited. For inquiries about accessibility, please contact Leeanne Maxey at lmaxey@nyss.org.

Morris Hirshfield, Cover of View magazine, October 1945.

This talk focuses on the obscure yet fascinating career of the folk artist Morris Hirshfield (1872-1946), a former tailor and slipper manufacturer who took up painting at the age of 65. Hirhsfield’s wildly stylized pictures of animals, landscapes, and female nudes attracted a great degree of attention in the 1940s, including a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943. Taking Hirshfield as case study, this talk considers the surprising dialogue between folk art and vanguard modernism at mid-century and the emergent category of the ”modern primitive” artist.

Richard Meyer is the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History at Stanford University, where he teaches courses on twentieth-century American art, gender and sexuality studies, censorship, and the history of photography. He authored, most recently, What was Contemporary Art? (MIT Press: 2013) and, with Catherine Lord, Art and Queer Culture (Phaidon: 2013). His first book, Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art, received the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Outstanding Scholarship from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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