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William Congdon was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on April 15, 1912. After studying at Yale University from 1930 to 1934, he pursued a growing interest in art by taking painting lessons with Harry Hensche and drawing and sculpture lessons with George Demetrious, in Boston and later in Gloucester. Congdon subsequently moved to Philadelphia, where he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for a few months. Duing this time he produced his first paintings and traveled to Europe, where he become familiar with the various artistic trends that were developing there at the time.
During World War II, he was a volunteer in the American Field Service and worked as an ambulance driver. In this capacity he traveled to North Africa, Italy, France, and Belgium. The experience had a great impact on his work, as evidenced by his sketches from that period. After World War II, Congdon stayed in Italy to help rehabilitate those areas that had been most stricken. In 1948 he moved to New York, where he met the main figures of American Abstract Expressionism. Congdon started showing at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York the following year, and became acquainted with Richard Posette-Dart and Mark Rothko. New York City itself served as the main subject of his paintings and, although they were clearly influenced by Paul Klee and Jackson Pollock’s pouring techniques, they made an original contribution to the body of American art for their unique balancing of Abstract Expressionism and the European figurative tradition.
Despite his success in the United States, Congdon decided to move to Venice in the 1950s, where he met Peggy Guggenheim. The city strongly influenced his painting, as did trips to the Sahara Desert, Algeria, Santorini and Guatemala. In 1959 he converted to Catholicism, moved to Assisi, and for a number of years painted primarily religious subjects. He soon abandoned this direction and returned to themes more familiar to his paintings, and despite not exhibiting for some years, he was able not to lose his productive rhythm. His pictorial style underwent a profound transformation in 1979 following his relocation to Gudo Gambaredo in the outskirts of Milan. William Congdon died April 15, 1998, in Milan. Since then, various retrospectives in Ferrara, Milan, Madrid, and Providence, Rhode Island have represented his artistic journey.