Untitled, From the Williamsburg Housing Project Murals
On View: Glass Corridor, 1st Floor
Of the four artists represented in the Williamsburg Housing Project murals (Ilya Bolotowsky, Balcomb Greene, Paul Kelpe, and Albert Swinden), Ilya Bolotowsky achieved the greatest and most sustained measure of recognition. An intellectually and physically energetic man, he had wideranging interests that encompassed writing short stories and plays, collecting Eskimo and other North American Indian art, and making his own documentary and experimental films. Bolotowsky was primarily a painter, however, and was among the first of his generation to paint abstractions.
Bolotowsky was born in Petrograd, Russia, to staunchly anti-Communist parents who later fled the country for political reasons. After some years in Constantinople, where he attended St. Joseph's College from 1921 to 1923, his family finally settled in New York in 1923. From 1924 to 1930 Bolotowsky studied at the National Academy of Design, where he was trained to work in a figurative manner. In 1933, however, he saw paintings by Piet Mondrian and Joan Miró and was moved by their example to experiment in an entirely nonfigurative mode. As demonstrated in his Williamsburg mural displayed here, he had, by 1936, fully embraced an idiom that testifies to his admiration for Miró in both its lively interaction of hard-edged geometric and biomorphic shapes and its use of bright, unmodeled areas of color. The issue of pictorial space versus flatness was central to discussions among the members of the American Abstract Artists, in which Bolotowsky figured prominently. This mural may be seen to incorporate the two opposing approaches; some of his shapes seem to cavort in a vaguely illusionistic space, while others appear to be solidly anchored on the painting's surface, emphasizing two-dimensional nature of the canvas.
By the 1940s Bolotowsky had devoted himself to the strict Neoplasticism of Mondrian. He continued to create his own variations on geometric abstraction for the rest of his career.
Oil on canvas
Unsigned and undated.
On loan from the New York City Housing Authority
No known copyright restrictions
This work may be in the public domain in the United States. Works created by United States and non-United States nationals published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, subject to the terms of any applicable treaty or agreement.
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this work. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties, such as artists or artists' heirs holding the rights to the work. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act.
The Brooklyn Museum makes no representations or warranties with respect to the application or terms of any international agreement governing copyright protection in the United States for works created by foreign nationals.
For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress
, Cornell University
, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
, and Copyright Watch
For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright
If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact email@example.com
Ilya Bolotowsky (American, born Russia, 1907-1981). Untitled, From the Williamsburg Housing Project Murals, 1936. Oil on canvas, 85 x 211in. (215.9 x 535.9cm). Brooklyn Museum, On loan from the New York City Housing Authority, L1990.1.1
overall, L1990.1.1_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome
any additional information you might have.