William Congdon

William Grosvenor Congdon (April 15, 1912 in Providence, Rhode Island – April 15, 1998 in Milan, Italy) was an American painter who gained notoriety as an artist in New York City in the 1940s, but lived most of his life in Europe
William Grosvenor Congdon was born on April 15, 1912, in Providence, Rhode Island, the second child of Gilbert Maurice Congdon and Caroline Rose Grosvenor, who married in 1910. Both parents came from rich families: the Congdons dealt in iron, steel and metals, while the Grosvenors owned a textile manufacturing business in Rhode Island. They had five children, all sons. William Congdon was the cousin of Isabella Stewart Gardner (the American, poet-critic Allen Tate's second wife) who is spoken of in personal letters between Allen Tate and Jacques Maritain (see pages 77–79 in John M. Dunaway's Exiles and Fugitives: The Letters of Jacques and Raissa Maritain, Allen Tate, and Caroline Gordon).After graduating from St. Mark’s School of Southborough, Massachusetts, he studied English Literature at Yale University and graduated in 1934. His cousin on his mother's side was poet Isabella Gardner. For three years, Congdon took painting lessons in Provincetown with Henry Hensche, followed by a further three years of drawing and sculpture lessons with George Demetrios in Boston and then Gloucester. For some months in 1934-35 he frequented the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

 In the 1950s Congdon was recognized as one of the leading painters in the United States and quickly attained an international reputation as an Abstract Expressionist. In 1951 Time magazine published a long article on him, and his works were selling well, attracting the attention of major museums. But once again he turned his back on his homeland to go and live in Italy, mainly in Venice, where he befriended Peggy Guggenheim who became a collector of his paintings.

 In the fall of 1979 Congdon moved his studio to an apartment adjacent to the Benedictine monastery Comunità Ss. Pietro e Paolo (Community of the Saints Peter and Paul) in Cascinazza, in the Milanese countryside of Gudo Gambaredo (Italy), where he would live for the rest of his life. He was aware that this was the last decisive move of his career; there would be no more traveling to far-flung places. At first, he was more than diffident towards his own “promised land”, but a few years later, the placid Lombardy plain, its florid meadows, the stark outline of its farmhouses, its low foggy sky, all found a vertical elevation in his paintings; they became the new points of reference for his imagination. Congdon now had to tackle a sky and earth that never seemed to change, that seemed the permanent heralds of death. In his diary he wrote that it was like going into exile from all that had previously supported, comforted, flattered and inspired him. In effect the demanding and unavoidable engagement with the land and the rhythm of the seasons had precise and decisive effects upon his art. From the early 1980s onwards, his draftsmanship became less taut, his paint less thick, his colors more sharply divided. While never totally denying a basis in naturalistic perception, the works of this new phase in his art reveal a greater degree of abstraction.
Congdon died on April 15, 1998, his 86th birthday. He painted up to a few days before his death. The palette range in his last painting reveals unusual combinations and contrapositions: for example, the sky in his very last work - Three Trees - is a startling innovation.Wikipedia

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