JULIE HELLER GALLERIES
DE HIRSH MARGULES
De Hirsh Margules (1899–1965) was a Romanian-born American "abstract realist" painter who crossed paths with many major American artistic and intellectual figures of the first half of the 20th century. Elaine de Kooning said that he was "[w]idely recognized as one of the most gifted and erudite watercolorists in the country", and New York Times critic Howard Devree stated in 1938 that "Margules uses color in a breath-taking manner. A keen observer, he eliminates scrupulously without distortion of his material." Devree later called Margules "one of our most daring experimentalists in the medium."
De Hirsh Margules was born in 1899 in the Romanian city of Iasi. When Margules was 10 weeks old, his family immigrated to New York City. At around age 9 or 10, Margules took art classes with the Boys Club on East Tenth Street, and his first taste of exhibition was at a student art show presented by the club. By age 11, he had won a city-wide prize (a box camera) at a children's art show presented by the department store Wanamakers. In his late teens, Margules studied for a couple of months in Pittsburgh with Edwin Randby, a follower of cowboy painter Frederic Remington. Thereafter he pursued a two-year course of studies in architecture, design and decoration at the New York Evening School of Art and Design, while working as a clerk during the day at Stern's Department Store. He was encouraged in these artistic pursuits by his neighbor, the painter Benno Greenstein (who later went by the name of Benjamin Benno).
Margules' first show was in 1922 at Jane Heap’s Little Review Gallery. Thereafter Margules began to participate in shows with a group including Stuart Davis, Jan Matulka, Buckminster Fuller in a gallery run by art-lover and restaurateur Romany Marie on the floor above her cafe. In 1927, Margules took a lengthy leave of absence from his day job as a police reporter in order to travel to Paris, where he "set up a studio in Montmartre's Palace du Tertre, on the top floor of an almost deserted hotel, a shabby establishment, lacking both heat and running water." He studied at the Louvre and traveled to paint landscapes in provincial France and North Africa.It was also in Paris that Margules initially conceived his idea of "Time Painting", where a painting is divided into sectors, each representing a different time of day, with color choices meant to evoke that time of day.
Upon his return to New York in 1929, Margules attended an exhibition of John Marin’s paintings. While at the exhibition, he "launched into an eloquent explanation of Marin to two nearby women", and was overheard by an impressed Alfred Stieglitz. The famous photographer and art promoter invited Margules to dine with his wife, the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and his assistant, painter Emil Zoler. Stieglitz thereafter became a friend and mentor to Margules, becoming for him "what Socrates was to his friends."
Stieglitz introduced Margules to John Marin, who quickly became the most important painterly influence upon Margules. Elaine de Kooning later noted that Margules was "[i]ndebted to Marin and through Marin to Cezanne for his initial conceptual approach - for his constructions of scenes with no negative elements, for skies that loom with the impact of mountains." Margules himself said that Marin was his "father and ... academy." The admiration was by no means unreciprocated: Marin said that Margules was "an art lover with abounding faith and sincerity, with much intelligence and quick seeing." Stieglitz also introduced Margules to many other artistic and intellectual figures in New York.
With the encouragement of Alfred Stieglitz, Margules in 1936 opened a two-room gallery at 43 West 8th Street called "Another Place." Over the following two years there were fourteen solo exhibitions by Margules and others, and the gallery was well-respected by the press. It was in this gallery that the painter James Lechay, Myron's brother, exhibited his first painting.
1936 was also when Margules first saw recognition by major art museums; that year both the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston purchased works by Margules. In 1942, he gave up working as a police reporter, and apparently dedicated himself thereafter solely to an artistic vocation.
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Museum of Modern Art
Provincetown Art Association and Museum