Phantasy II
Norman Lewis
Phantasy II
Norman Lewis (American; Abstract Expressionism; 1909-1979): Phantasy II, 1946. Oil on canvas, 28-1/8 x 35-7/8 inches (71.4 x 91.2 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA. Image: Museum of Modern Art. © This artwork may be protected by copyright. It is posted on the site in accordance with fair use principles.



"Norman Lewis, born in 1909 in New York, was the first major African American abstract expressionist. Lewis, like fellow artist, Jacob Lawrence attended the art workshops in Harlem. At the art centers Lewis studied African art and was introduced to Howard University professor, Alain Locke's ideas about art, which Locke believed, should derive from African themes and aesthetics. However Lewis saw limitations in the New Negro ideals and questioned its effectiveness in expressing his own identity and interests of the African American community. Lewis later moved from abstract figuration to modernism, as exemplified by artists Wassily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso. His paintings from this time are devoid of realistic imagery and focused more on conceptual expression, often referring to African American settings and culture. Lewis, always active in the art community, in the 1960s was a founding member of the Spiral Group, a group of African American artists who sought to contribute through their art to the civil rights movement." (© Public Broadcasting Service - PBS.)

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'Like other Abstract Expressionists working in New York, Lewis was deeply interested in music, and especially jazz, which influenced the painting of Phantasy II. In an automatic process he made a linear composition with boldly colored lines and forms akin to the improvisational structure of jazz.' (© Museum of Modern Art)