Arthur Polonsky : A Thief of Light

February 10, 2008 — May 18, 2008

Preview Reception Saturday, February 9, 2008, 6-8 p.m.
Gallery Talk Wednesday, February 13, noon

The Danforth Museum of Art is pleased to present Arthur Polonsky: A Thief of Light, an exhibition of more than 30 paintings, drawings and prints by this renowned artist, dating from 1946 through 2002.

About the Artist
Arthur Polonsky was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1925, the son of a Russian tailor and seamstress who had come to the United States as part of the wave of late 19th century immigration that was to change the face of Boston’s cultural history. As a high school student, he studied drawing at the Museum of Fine Arts, and later received his diploma from the Museum School, where he studied with Karl Zerbe. During the summer of 1947 he was a teaching assistant to Ben Shahn at the Museum School’s Tanglewood Program in the Berkshires, and subsequently traveled to France when awarded the Museum School’s European Traveling Fellowship upon graduation.

Living in Paris from 1948 until March 1950, he was part of a loose community of other Museum School graduates all intent upon absorbing the visual lessons of the European Masters, from Rembrandt to Picasso to Soutine. However, for Polonsky, the Symbolist movement was particularly important.  Drawn to the artist Redon, as well as poets such as Rimbaud and Rilke, he eventually learned French well enough to read his favorite writers in their original language. His works are luminous, filled with unexpected sources of light. As a long admirer, and sometimes translator of the poet Rimbaud, he believes that the poet (and the painter) is “really a thief of fire.”

About the Exhibit
Inspired by his experience of listening to music, reading poetry or looking at the world, Boston Expressionist Arthur Polonsky has focused on the metaphysical during a career that has spanned more than seventy years. Fellow Museum School classmate Barbara Swan has recognized him as a visionary, a dreamer whose ideas of objective ideas reality were tempered by “a mystical, mysterious inner life that is unique.” This retrospective exhibition includes paintings, drawings and prints ranging from 1949 to the present. A 24-page fully illustrated catalog, Arthur Polonsky: A Thief of Light, will be available in the Danforth Museum Shop.

Exhibition Press

“Revival of the Boston Expressionists - Back in time with Schwartz, Polonsky shows”
By Greg Cook, The Boston Globe, February 17, 2008

“. . . Polonsky's Danforth retrospective, titled “A Thief of Light,” catalogs his development, from a curdled 1947 self-portrait, to a wild-haired Samson from 1959 lounging seductively atop a pile of smashed corpses at the seaside, to 1990s realist ink wash drawings of slumbering nursing-home residents.
      Polonsky, 82, who also lives in Newton, draws inspiration from literature, religion, and myth as he builds allegorical scenes that he hopes feel as convincing as the middle of a dream. He says he composes intuitively, often more motivated by color and shape than symbolism. . . .”   [Read more]

“Burning Visions”
By Chris Bergeron, The MetroWest Daily News, February 24, 2008

     “Like Prometheus, painter Arthur Polonsky stole fire from the gods to give mortals through his canvases. Like a child trying to bottle all the fireflies lighting up the night, he's chosen an Olympian task that never ends.
      Viewers can now bask in the visual heat of Polonsky's striking works in a sumptuous exhibit at the Danforth Museum of Art. . . .” [Read more]

Boston Expressionism at the Danforth Museum of Art

Arthur Polonsky, The Light Thief, 1965
The Light Thief, 1965
Oil on canvas, 46½ x 58 inches
Courtesy of Audrey Cayne

Arthur Polonsky, Still Now, 1998
Still Now, 1998
Ink wash on paper, 22 x 30 inches
Courtesy of the artist

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Masschusetts Office of Travel and Tourism Mass Cultural Council

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