“Jan Gelb was born in New York in 1906. Her brother, Lester, has written of her, ‘Jan was never a passive female. When I was a small boy, she was already a self-liberated young woman out in the world learning, adventuring, traveling and creating.’ At 22 she had graduated, one of the first women to do so, with honors from the Yale University School of Fine Art. From Yale she moved to New York where she studied at the Art Students League, and in 1936 she came to Provincetown for the first time. She came back each year and in 1940, to a shack lent by Hazel Hawthorne, she brought Boris Margo from New York. They were a vital couple [...] Jan Gelb and Boris Margo lived in isolation on the dunes in a shack Boris built on the site of the old coast guard station, which is where O’Neill once lived. The station had washed away years earlier. Their front yard was simply the beach. And to Jan Gelb it was, for all the time she knew it, a tremendous inspiration.
About her method of working Jan Gelb once wrote, ‘In both painting and graphics I start with automatism: I create a flowing of color, form, texture on their surfaces. When studied, this (hopefully) will <speak to me>. I follow, elaborating, simplifying, adding, removing, until a composition evolves, is recognized, and completed.’
Jan Gelb is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Baltimore Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum. Her one-man and group shows are simply too numerous to list here but they include the Whitney Museum, the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She first exhibited at the Provincetown Art Association in 1949 [...]”
- Alec Wilkinson