Color, Myth, and Music: The Artist

"Form to me is color. . . . I conceive space itself as of a plastic significance that I express in color. Form not being simply the mass of each object seen separately, I organize my canvas as a solid block as much in depth as laterally."
- Stanton Macdonald-Wright

Stanton Macdonald-Wright was an artist, poet, and most of all, pioneer of modern art in the United States. Although he spent his early childhood in Virginia, Stanton Macdonald-Wright started maturing as an artist in California. His father, an amateur artist who ran a seaside hotel, encouraged Macdonald-Wright's gift. At The Art Students' League in Los Angeles, he studied under a teacher - a student of Robert Henri - who encouraged him to exercise his independent vision.

In 1907 he moved away from home to Paris to continue his studies at The Sorbonne, The Ecole des Beuax-Arts and The Colarossi and Julian Academies. Married to a wealthy older woman, he began experimenting with modern art movements and color theory. In 1912, he and Morgan Russell, a young American artist whom he met in Paris, developed the principles of Synchromism. Their discovery announced an artistic revolution to the western world: "In freeing ourselves from certain previous restraints and stepping boldly into the unknown, we have been able to wrest from nature its secret in order to bring painting to its highest point of intensity."

In the throes of World War I, Macdonald-Wright fled to London and lived with his brother. He returned to New York in 1916, but by 1918 became restless and moved back to Southern California. Dismayed to find that California knew little about modern art, he organized the first modern art exhibition in Los Angeles in 1920. He also wrote and directed "Synchromist Theater" for The Santa Monica Theater Guild.

Macdonald-Wright lived the rest of his life traveling for extended periods of time to California, Hawaii, Italy and Japan, exhibiting his work, teaching and writing about art. Although he turned away from abstraction during the middle of his life, his later paintings returned to synchromism, rich with Oriental influences. Macdonald-Wright, who saw his later works as the pinnacle of his career, expressed his frustration with critics' waning interest in them. He died in 1973, nearly forgotten, a great figure who had outlived his time.

Until recently his works have been barely noticed, buried in the art history pages for over 25 years. In the past few years, America's fascination about the man who brought color, music, and movement to the United States is bringing tribute to him and his lost art form.