Byron Browne (American, 1907–1961) was a founder of Abstract Expressionism and a key figure in the American Avant-Garde scene of the 1930s and 1940s. Browne was born in New York; he spent most of his life there and in Lakewood, NJ. He studied at the National Academy of Design, and became lifelong friends with another Abstract Expressionist, Arshile Gorky (Armenian, 1904–1948). Browne was such a proponent of Abstract Art that he destroyed his early student works that featured a more traditional style. The influence of Cubism and Surrealism is evident in most of his work, taking cues from Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963), and Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893–1983). He painted several murals as a participant in projects organized by the Works Progress Administration, including one for the 1939 World’s Fair. Browne’s first solo exhibition was at New York’s Eighth Street Gallery in 1933.

Browne was active with the Artist’s Union, and he often published articles in their Art Front publication. In 1940, he married Rosalind Benglesdorf (American, 1916–1979), who was also an Abstract Expressionist. He taught at the Arts Student League from 1948 to 1959 and at New York University from 1959 to 1961. A very prolific artist, he held over 60 one-man exhibitions through the 1970s, including those at the National Academy of Design, New York in 1928, the Art Institute of Chicago in 1928 and 1935, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1939. One of the artist’s favorite themes was the circus. Several examples of works with this theme include Blue Lion with Dancer (1946) and Circus Woman (1946). He also enjoyed painting icons of Spanish life such as found in the paintingPicador (1956).

Browne’s works are displayed at over 200 museums and institutions around the world including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art. Browne’s works are currently represented by a few galleries, such as New York’s Spanierman Modern, Pierce Galleries, John Raimondi Gallery, and The Harmon-Meek Gallery. The artist died in 1961.

Timeline

1907
Born in Yonkers, NY
1924–1928
Studied at the National Academy of Design

Exhibitions

1936
New School for Social Research, New York, NY (first solo show)

Public Collections

Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX
Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse and Onondaga County, New York
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ
The Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, NY
Art Students League, New York, NY
The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
The Canton Art Institute, Canton, OH
The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee, WI
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute Museum of Art, Utica, NY
Columbia Museum of Arts and Sciences, Columbia, SC
Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Isreal
Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Neuberger Museum, Purchase College, Purchase, NY
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA
The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix Art Musuem, Phoenix, AZ
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, NM
Walker Art Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensborough, NC
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA
Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, PA

Literature

“Byron Browne in the Context of Abstract Expressionism,” by Gail Levin; Arts Magazine, Vol. 59 No. 10, June (Summer), 1985, pp. 129-133
“Byron Browne at Schlesinger-Boisanté,” (review) by Stephen Westfall; Art in America, December, 1986
“Art: ‘Interpretive Link.’ View of Pivotal Movement,” (review) by Robert Smith; The New York Times, November 14, 1986, Section C, p.28
“The 25 Most Undervalued American Artists,” by Marissa Banks et al.; Art and Antiques, October, 1986
“Art: A Look at the 20th Century Portrait Drawings,” (review) by John Russell; The New York Times, August 1, 1986, Section C, p. 26
“Art: Byron Browne,” (review) Kay Larson; New York Magazine, May 19, 1986
Artist Against War and Facism; Papers of the First American Artists’ Congress, by Matthew Baigell and Julia Williams; Rutgers University Press, 1986
The American Art Analog, in three volumes; a compendium reference to American artists by 16 authors; Chelsea House Publishers, Valley Forge, PA., 1986. Includes reproduction and biography.
The American Abstract Artists: Thirties’ Geometric Abstract as precursor to Forties’ Expressive Abstraction, by Richard W. Lizza; doctoral dissertation, The Florida State University; University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI, 1985.
“Byron Browne,” (review), by Max Wykes-Joyce; Arts Review, September 27, 1985, pp 475-476. London
“Byron Browne: Works on Paper, 1928-1959,” (review); Arts and Artists, October 1985, pp. 34-35. London