INTRODUCTION TO ROLPH SCARLETT
Hilla Rebay, who found Scarlett through the Museum's innovative education program, considered Scarlett to be her greatest discovery. The Museum of Non-Objective Painting (later to be called the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) not only purchased many of Scarlett's works but also employed him as a docent and lecturer.
When Rudolf Bauer emigrated to America in 1939, Scarlett was anxious to meet the artist whose work dominated the Guggenheim collection. Despite the language barrier the two artists developed a strong rapport and Scarlett had an open invitation to visit Bauer at his villa on the beach in Deal, New Jersey. In the Early 1940s Scarlett regularly visited Bauer with a portfolio of preparatory drawings which Bauer would critique. These drawings would then be translated into large scale paintings many of which were purchased by Rebay for the Museum. Scarlett, not knowing yet of the dispute between Bauer and the Guggenheim Foundation, asked Bauer why he wasn't painting. Bauer cryptically replied, "You paint my paintings now."
Rolph Scarlett was born in 1889 in Canada, and taught to paint by his grandmother. Through an apprenticeship in the family business of jewelry making, Scarlett learned how to evaluate precious stones at an early age as well as designing and executing settings for them. He originally came to New York in 1907 for further training in this craft.
Scarlett's romance with Non-Objective art began in 1924 with the purchase of a box of pastels and a stack of paper. As he began to test the pastels on the white sheets, he became enamored with the purity and power of these chromatic marks. He lost track of time and eventually fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning, he found he had created completely abstract compositions. The artist entered the best of this work in a juried competition at the Toledo Museum of Art. After much debate, the jurors, who had never seen a completely abstract work of art before, awarded it first prize. The drawing was so controversial that people waited in line to see it.
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