Philadelphia Modernism at MIA

Basic shapes and bold colors

By: Hannah Olund  

Three Pennsylvania artists showcase their best and brightest colors at the Kunin Collection Focus on Philadelphia Modernism at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Hugh Breckenridge, Arthur B. Carles, and Morton Schamberg broke from traditional styles and explored the beauty of basic shapes and bold colors. These three artists “helped shape new ways of making and seeing art at the beginning of the 20th century,” wrote the MIA in a statement accompanying the art.


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The art pieces you see while wandering through the collection resemble works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Still-life geometric paintings of people and nature jumped off the canvas in strange and confusing ways. Many of the works are creative interpretations of the nude form expressing emotions ranging from sorrow to freedom.


Artist Bob Thompson had the largest variety of paintings on display. He was a Kentucky native who developed a love for visual and performance art. “Thompson’s multi-figure paintings carry a sense of joyous abandon, possibly because of his grounding in performance art but also due to his source material; his spark of inspiration often came from paintings created in the 1500s and 1600s,” wrote the MIA. Bold primary colors fill his paintings, usually of open landscapes and relaxed nude figures.

One particularly intriguing painting was Thompson’s oil painting of Adam and Eve. The large canvas shows two stark white figures sitting apart from each other. The rest of the painting is filled with a rainbow of swirls invoking a sense of all-consuming beauty. If you stand back from the painting, the colors flow together in a brilliant pattern. More intriguing though was the dark figure, only recognizable after taking in the painting for a while. The dark figure is positioned only slightly away from the representation of Eve, signifying the presence of the devil and the temptation of sin.

Wake Mag