Boston Expressionism

Works from Danforth Art's Permanent Collection

At the Museum \ Current & Upcoming Exhibitions \ Past Exhibitions \ Resources

From the 1930s through the 1950s artists living and working in the Boston area explored human emotion and spirituality with color and imagination, painting figuratively at a time when abstraction was the trend. The movement became known as the School of Boston Expressionism. These artists embraced a distinctive blend of visionary painting, dark humor, religious mysticism, and social commentary. Their technique was unique as well; these artists pushed paint across their canvases in a manner that would influence artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and would impact the development of Abstract Expressionism.

Today, Danforth Art holds more than 300 works of art considered to be of the School of Boston Expressionism, including four generations of artists from the 1930s to the current day. Considered together, artists of each generation allow us to trace the presence of an “expressive voice” in contemporary art. While each artist works in their own way, their work continues a tradition of painterly expressionism, expanding our consideration of contemporary painting, sculpture, photography, and printmaking.

Explore a selection of these works more deeply in this online gallery. For more information about the work (date, medium, whether it is currently on view), please click on the artwork image below to open a page from our collections database.

David Aronson   Katherine Porter   Jack Levine

David Aronson,
The Fortune Teller II


Katherine Porter, Untitled


Jack Levine,
Feast of Pure Reason

Arthur Polonsky   Barbara Swan   Gerry Bergstein

Arthur Polonsky, Rising Light


Barbara Swan, Portrait of Aaron


Gerry Bergstein,
Do You Come Here Often?

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Danforth Art is committed to exhibiting work by Boston Expressionist painters. Since 2005, the museum has showcased work from first-generation Boston Expressionists Jack Levine and Hyman Bloom, who both realized great success in the late 1930s; from second generation Boston Expressionists, who studied with Karl Zerbe at the School for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, such as David Aronson and Barbara Swan; and, finally, from contemporary artists like Gerry Bergstein and Jon Imber, whose work traces the presence of an “expressive voice” in contemporary art.

Current & Upcoming Exhibitions


Past Exhibitions

The Expressive Voice: Landscape Reimagined
March 15–May 17, 2015

Facial Expressions
November 23, 2014–March 1, 2015

The Expressive Voice: Brought to Light
September 7, 2014–November 9, 2014

Barbara Swan: Reflected Self
November 17, 2013–February 23, 2014

REED KAY Painting Retrospective, 1953-2004
April 7, 2013 – May 24, 2013

JOHN WILSON Eternal Presence
November 17, 2012 – March 24, 2013

THE EXPRESSIVE VOICE Selections from the Permanent Collection
March 4, 2012 - May 20, 2012

THE EXPRESSIVE VOICE Selections from the Permanent Collection
November 20, 2011 - February 26, 2012

A FEAST OF PURE REASON: Expressionism in Boston
November 14, 2010 - February 6, 2011

September 12, 2010 - November 7, 2010

HENRY SCHWARTZ : The Eternal Footman
November 22, 2009 - February 28, 2010

GERRY BERGSTEIN : Effort at Speech
November 18, 2009 - March 14, 2010

November 21, 2009 - February 28, 2010

JASON BERGER : Directed Vision
October 24, 2008 - March 1, 2009

ARTHUR POLONSKY : A Thief of Light
February 10 - May 18, 2008

HYMAN BLOOM : A Spiritual Embrace
December 1, 2006 - March 11, 2007

JACK LEVINE : Political Discourse
March 31 - May 22, 2005

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Recommended Resources

Danforth Art catalogues and other resource material may be available for purchase in the Shop at Danforth Art. Please inquire at the admissions desk or contact us at (508) 620-0050 or info@danforthart.org.

Arthur Polonsky: A Thief of Light
Danforth Museum of Art Exhibition Catalogue, 2008
Catalogue and Essay by Katherine French (view essay)
Additional Essays by Barbara Swan and Arthur Polonsky
Library of Congress Control Number: 2008922008

Hyman Bloom: A Spiritual Embrace
Danforth Museum of Art Exhibition Catalogue, 2006
Foreword by Rabbi David Sears (view foreword)
Catalogue and Essay by Katherine French (view essay)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2006937958

Boston Modern: Figurative Expressionism as Alternative Modernism
By Judith Arlene Bookbinder
Published by UPNE, 2005
ISBN 1584654880, 9781584654889, 372 pages

Painting in Boston: 1950-2000
By Rachel Rosenfield Lafo, Nicholas J. Capasso, Jennifer Uhrhane,
DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park
Published by University of Massachusetts Press, 2002
ISBN 1558493646, 9781558493643, 264 pages

Against the Grain: The Second Generation of Boston Expressionism
October 28 - December 17, 2000
University of New Hampshire Art Gallery

Hyman Bloom
Tied to the Tracks Films, 2005
Angelica Allenda Brisk, Producer/Director/Co-Writer

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