John Murphy is Research Associate in the Department of American Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. He recently received his PhD from Northwestern University where he wrote his dissertation on the art colony at Woodstock, New York. He co-curated the exhibition “The Left Front: Radical Art in the ‘Red Decade,’ 1929-1940” at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in 2014.

Ivan Albright: Wrinkles in Time

Fig. 1. Ivan Albright, Heavy the Oar to Him Who is Tired, Heavy the Coat, Heavy the Sea (1939), lithograph on off-white wove paper, image 429 x 269 mm; sheet 505 x 307 mm. Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Mr. Norman L. Rice. 1940.79.

With their perverse relish in time-ravaged bodies and haunted, moldering doors, Ivan Albright’s paintings continue to shock, dismay and fascinate audiences. In iconic works such as Read More

Athletic Aesthetics: Art, Craft and Bolton Brown

Bolton Brown inking stone, reproduced from Bolton Brown, “The Process of Lithography,” Pencil Points 4, no. 3 (March 1923).

Bolton Coit Brown (1864–1936) liked to set himself seemingly insurmountable physical and artistic challenges. Best known today as the collaborating printer of George Bellows’s (1882–1925) great lithographs of the 1920s, Brown was also an accomplished mountaineer and a serious artist in his own right Read More

Blacklisted: William Gropper’s Capriccios

William Gropper, Politico from the portfolio The Capriccios (1953–56), lithograph, image 14 x 10 inches, sheet 16 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches. Image courtesy the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Gift of Evelyn Salk in memory of her husband, Erwin A. Salk, 2001.21.43.

“Mr. Gropper, the first question is: Are you a member of the Communist Party?” William Gropper—painter, political cartoonist, writer and social activist— appeared before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Government Operations headed by Joseph McCarthy in May 1953. He had been subpoenaed to account for his painting William Gropper’s America, Its Folklore (1946), a whimsical geography of the country’s folk heroes, from Johnny Appleseed to Rip Van Winkle, prints of which had been distributed in U.S. Information Services libraries abroad. Read More