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Walter S. Feldman (American 1925 – 2017)

The Orchestra, 1950, oil on canvas, 25 ¾ x 21 ½ inches, signed and dated lower left, labeled verso “Brown University, Trustee, The Walter Feldman Trust for Artwork” titled verso, Feldman’s business card verso


About the Painting

Walter Feldman painted The Orchestra early in his career during his first year of teaching at the Yale University School of Fine Art. Unlike his later expressionist and abstract expressionist paintings, Feldman adopts a streamlined, hard-edged, and geometric vocabulary with barely recognizable figural references. To the right of the composition, we see the orchestra conductor represented by a V-shape standing atop a podium, while the orchestra sits to the left of the composition framed by what appears to be a highly stylized band shell. The reds, pinks, yellows, and grayish whites of the figures, which are melded together with their instruments, standout against muted, somber background of taupe, greens and browns, creating a feeling of rhythm and a liveliness suggestive of music itself. The figures also have a calligraphic or symbolic quality which calls to mind musical notes. Taken as a whole, these elements combine for a convincing synthesis of abstraction and representation.

About the Artist

Walter S. Feldman was an established artist and teacher who spent nearly seven decades in his creative pursuits. Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, he received both a BFA and MFA from the Yale University School of Fine Arts and studied with de Kooning, Stuart Davis and Josef Albers. He taught at Yale from 1950 to 1953, when he joined the faculty of Brown University where he taught for more than the next five decades. During his long career, Feldman exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Corcoran Gallery, as well as at other institutions in the United States and internationally. He had one-man shows at Pace Gallery and Kraushaar Galleries. Feldman earned a Fulbright Fellowship and Eliza Gardner Howard Fellowship. His other awards include the gold medal at Milan’s Mostra International, the Childe Hassam Purchase Prize from the National Academy of Design, the Print Prize at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Tonner Prize from the American Color Print Society. Feldman’s works are in the collections of over 150 public institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Smithsonian Institute, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 2014, his work was the subject of a mini retrospective at The Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston. He is listed in Who was Who in American Art and other standard references.

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