Jan Matulka, c.1927, silver gelatin print
gift of Jan Matulka estate
Frances Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives;
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York



Jan Matulka (1890-1972) was one of the pioneers in American modernist painting. Born in Czechoslovakia and educated in New York, he moved seamlessly between American and European art circles in the crucial, formative years between the wars, 1920–1940. From Paris and Prague to New York and Cape Cod, his ability to understand and assimilate avant garde developments in progressive painting made him one of the most important and vibrant voices in the early days of American Modernism-—along with a small group of painters including Arshile Gorky and Stuart Davis.

Unfortunately, for reasons both personal and professional, Matulka slipped into obscurity in the 1940s. Although he lived another twenty years, he ceased to play an active role in the development of American art. In 1979 the Whitney Museum of
American Art in association with the National Collection of Fine Arts (now, the National Museum of American Art) mounted a major retrospective of the artist’s work, beginning a reconsideration of Matulka that continues today. Jan Matulka – The Global Modernist is the first museum exhibition since and examines his unique position as a conduit between the worlds of European and American painters. Patterson Sims, who organized the 1979 exhibition, is currently the director of the Montclair Art Museum which has co-sponsored The Global Modernist along with the artist’s estate.

The exhibition presents over sixty works—oils, watercolors, drawings, and prints—that span the years from 1915 to 1950. A 72 page catalog accompanies the exhibition which will travel to six museums from September 2004 through June 2006.