Charles Seliger

Portrait of Howard Putzel


Howard Putzel (1898–1945) was a little known and short-lived writer and dealer who has been described as “a figure of major importance for the development of American art.” (Melvin Lader, "Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century: The Surrealist Milieu and the American Avant-garde, 1942–1947," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware, 1981, p. 141. Published by University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lader dedicates a chapter of this thesis to Howard Putzel, pp. 141–91.) In the early 1930s, Putzel came to know Marcel Duchamp and the collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg, and organized a series of exhibitions in California demonstrating a precocious (for the United States) knowledge of European Surrealism, first in San Francisco (1934–35) and later in Los Angeles (1935–38). He moved to Paris in 1938–39 and befriended Peggy Guggenheim, whom he advised on purchases as she accumulated her collection. When he relocated to New York in the summer of 1940, his interest turned to finding new, native talent. Guggenheim re-established contact with Putzel when she herself arrived in New York a year later. In March 1943, Jimmy Ernst, Guggenheim’s secretary at Art of This Century, left her employ to set up his own gallery, and Putzel was appointed as his successor. Putzel turned Guggenheim’s attention away from the milieu of the European avant-garde in favor of young U.S. artists. This signaled the beginning of Guggenheim’s patronage henceforth of U.S. rather than European art. In 1944 Putzel left Guggenheim's employ in order to open his own gallery in New York (67 Gallery). He died suddenly in 1945. This small drawing by Putzel’s friend, Charles Seliger (1926–2009), may be the only surviving record of Putzel’s appearance, and served for the casting of Putzel in the film Pollock (2000), starring Ed Harris.

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Artist Charles Seliger
Date 1943
Medium Pencil and ink on paper
Dimensions 12.7 x 7.6 cm
Credit line Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Gift of the artist
Accession 2006.78
Collection Acquisitions
Type Work on paper

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