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.