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.