John Ferren (American, 1905–1970) was a renowned artist who started his career painting geometric abstractions, but branched out into still life and other forms following World War II. He was born in Pendleton, OR, but grew up in California, where he graduated from Polytechnic High School in 1923.

The artist was employed as an engineer for California Telephone and Telegraph and later as a producer of plaster for a toy company. He became an apprentice to an Italian stonecutter and sculpted portrait heads. His true artistic journey began in 1929, when he traveled throughout Europe, taking classes and meeting many artistic contemporaries, including Hans Hofman (German, 1880–1966). He eventually settled in Paris, France. While his focus was on sculpture, a chance meeting with Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954) led him to begin painting. He returned to America for his first exhibition at the Art Center in San Francisco, but then returned to Paris, where he lived throughout most of the 1930s. He became friends with Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) and joined the Abstraction-Creation artist group. He married Laure Ortiz de Zarate in 1932, but they divorced in 1938.

With American involvement in World War II on the horizon, Ferren returned to the United States, where he painted several academic figural and still life works. He worked in the Office of War Information during the war, began painting in the Abstract Impressionist style, and joined the Club, a group of artists in the New York School. Later in his life, Ferren's abstract works featured bold painting and bright colors. He taught at the Brooklyn Museum School, Cooper Union, and Queens College, all in New York. His works were featured at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and many other museums. Some of his more famous works include No. 168 Mallorca, Sea-Forms, and The Windows. Ferren’s work and teaching have influenced many of the Abstract Expressionist painters; he was one of the primary authorities on that painting style. Ferren died in 1970 in Southampton, NY.

Timeline

1905
Born: Pendleton, OR
1923
Graduated from Polytechnic High School, Los Angeles, CA
1925
Attended California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA
1929
Traveled to Europe, attended classes at the Sorbonne, University of Florence, Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, University of Salamanca, Academie Ranson, Paris, and Academie Colarossi, Paris
1930
Returned to California
Debuted exhibition at the Arts Center in San Francisco, CA
1935
George L.K. Morris and Albert E. Gallatin are the first Americans to purchase Ferren’s Parisian works
1936
Pierre Matisse hosts solo exhibition of Ferren’s art at Matisse’s New York gallery
1936–1937
Studied engraving at S.W. Hayter's Studio 17, Paris
1938
Moved to New York City
Became one of the founding members of the American Association of Abstract Artists
1947
Moved back to California
Began teaching summer sessions at the Art Center School and UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
1946–1950
Taught at the Brooklyn Museum School, NY
1947–1954
Taught at Cooper Union, NY
1955
Artistic consultant for director Alfred Hitchcock's film "The Trouble with Harry"
1958
Artistic consultant for director Alfred Hitchcock's film "Vertigo"
1952–1970
Taught at Queens College, NY
1970
Died: Southampton , NY

Exhibitions

2009
American Abstractions Part 2: Paintings 1950's - Present - Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York City, NY
Hot and Cool Abstractions, 1940s to the Present - Spanierman Modern, New York City, NY
2008
Order and Intuition: American Abstraction from the Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art, 1913-1954, Hollis Taggart Gallery, New York, NY
2007
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, NY
Leaders in American Modernism, Naples Museum of Art, Naples, FL
2006
Geometric Abstraction and Color Function: Two Generations, D. Wigmore Fine Art Inc., New York, NY
2005
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, NY
Art of Tomorrow: Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim, Guggenheim Museum, NY
Jean Hélion and American Art, National Academy Museum, NY
Artists & Nature on Eastern Long Island: 1940’s to the Present, Spainerman Gallery at East Hampton
New York School: Another View, Opalka Gallery, Sage Colleges, Albany, NY
Hilla Rebay & the Museum of Non-Objective Painting DC Moore Gallery, NY
2003
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, NY
The American Avant-Garde in Paris 1918-1939- An Ambivalent Fascination, Musée d'Art Américain, Giverny, France
2001
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, NY
2000
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, NY
The American Avant-Garde: A Decade of Change 1936-1946, The Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, Greenwich, CT
1998
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, NY
Snyder Fine Art, NY
Defining the Edge: Early American Abstraction, Selections from the Collection of Dr. Peter B Fischer, catalogue illus. cover
Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA
The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA
1997
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York NY
1996
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY
1995
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY
1993
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery New York, NY
The Abstract Spirit: John Ferren (1905-1970), Curated by Helen Harrison, Pollock-Krasner Found. Queens Col.; SUNY, Stonybrook; East Hampton, NY
1992
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1990
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1988
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1987
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1986
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1985
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1985
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1983
A. M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1982
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1980
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY
1979
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY
1979
Retrospective, The Graduate Center of the City Univ. of New York New York, NY
1978
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1977
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1975
A.M. Sachs Gallery New York, NY (solo)
1974
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1972
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1971
John Ferren Memorial Show, The Century Club New York, NY
1969
A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
The Parrish Museum, Southampton, NY (solo)
1965–1968
Rose Fried Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1964
Centre d'Art, Centre d'Art Beirut, Lebanon
1962
Rose Fried Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1958
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (solo)
1958
Stable Gallery, New York, NY
1957
Stable Gallery, New York, NY
1956
Stable Gallery, New York, NY
1955
Stable Gallery New York, NY
1954
Stable Gallery, New York, NY
1953
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1952
San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA (solo)
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA (solo)
1949
Kleemann Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1947
Kleemann Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1942
The Willard Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1940
Corcoran Gallery of Art Washington, D.C.
1938
Pierre Matisse Gallery New York, NY
1937
Pierre Matisse Gallery New York, NY
1937
Arts Club of Chicago Chicago, IL
1936
Pierre Loeb Paris, France
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Arts Minneapolis, MN
Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (solo)
1932
Galerie Zack, Paris, France (solo)
1930
Art Center, San Francisco, CA (solo)

Literature

1980
John Ferren (1905-1970): Paintings of the 30's through the 50's