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Victor Candell, An American Modernist (1903-1977) — Blue Heron Fine Art Blog

Victor Candell, An American Modernist (1903-1977)

by Jim Puzinas on March 11, 2010

Victor Candell was a New York modernist whose initial preoccupation with explosions, violence and the horrors of the period following World War II led him to develop an dynamic abstract painting style.  A number of his works from this period were purchased by the Metropolitan and Whitney museums.  

In an interview with Victor Candell conducted by Dorothy Seckler for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts September, 1965, Candell remembers that he was invited by Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum to come into her first group of modern artists. He “was right there right from the beginning when it wasn’t called the WPA Project but it was called the Whitney Project when artists in this country were categorized. They were put into categories, A artist, and B artist, designations of quality. Well, I was much gratified that I was an A.” 1


"Sky Flowers" dated 1962, Oil on canvas. 10" x 11"

His first exhibit at age 43 was at the Brandt Gallery in 1940; dealing predominantly with social realist themes. Like many artists of his day, Candell was influenced by all the newer forms of art that were beginning to emerge in the 1940’s such as that produced by the Expressionists and by artists like Mondrian and Klee. He taught with Max Beckmann and showed regularly with the Grand Central Moderns. Large paintings by Candell were acquired by the Whitney Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These works ushered in Victor Candell’s mature style as a New York modernist whose initial preoccupation with explosions, violence and the horrors of the period following World War II led him to develop a dynamic abstract painting style based on his early ideas of geometric organization of space and Cubism. 2 

"Cloudburst" dated 1959, O/C 22" x 20"

"Cloudburst" dated 1959, Oil on Canvas. 22" x 20"

In 1958 Candell and Leo Manso started the Provincetown Workshop, a small art school modeled after the Cooper Union that remained in operation for more than twenty years. For many art students of the day, this became a replacement for the recently closed Hans Hofmann School. Summers were now spent in Provincetown depicting the recurrence of seasons and the natural cycle of plant and animal life in his paintings 3.

"Sunset in the City" dated 1958, Oil on Canvas 22" x 20"

"Sunset in the City" dated 1958, Oil on Canvas. 22" x 20"

It was  in Provincetown, in the late 1950’s, that Candell found his “explosions in nature” 4 and used them as inspirations for many of his bold canvases, such as “Cloudburst”, where Candell portrays the energy released in a downpour as strong alternations of black and white color heightening the contrast between the two and again in “Sunset in the City”, where Candell portrays a searing New York City sunset as bright bands of red, orange, yellow and black against the city background.

Mr. Candell received numerous awards for his art work, including prizes from the Museum of Modern Art and the U.S. Treasury. His paintings are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, The Whitney Museum, The Corcoran Gallery, The Carnegie Institute, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

1 Dorothy Seckler, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, An Interview with Victor Candell, Sept. 1, 1965, p. 10

2 Seckler, p. 13

3 Seckler, p. 20

4 Seckler, p. 21


Wendy Campbell March 13, 2010 at 5:46 am

Thanks for sharing these works – the energy and colours are wonderful! I probably would not have come across Victor Candell otherwise.

Wendy C

Jim Puzinas March 15, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Wendy, I appreciate your interest and comments. Candell is one of many abstract artists from this period that are being rediscoverd and reevaluated by today’s American painting collectors. He is a growing favorite of mine!

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