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John Ferren (American, 1905-1970), Untitled, airbrush on paper, signed and dated 1952

John Ferren (American, 1905-1970), Untitled, airbrush on paper, signed and dated 1952

Item Description:

Signed and dated "Ferren 52" lower right, with a glazed black and silvered wood frame


Ground is faded; appears to have significant soiling or foxing to the upper margin. Please contact for specific condition questions and to request a full condition report. Not examined out of the frame. Lofty does not guarantee the condition or authenticity of frames.


Inherited by descent to current owner, whose parents knew the artist


Height 20.25 in.

Width 26 in.

About The Artist:

John Ferren was an American abstract artist born in Pendleton, Oregon in 1905 and raised in California. He briefly attended the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1925 and served as an apprentice to an Italian stone cutter. During his apprenticeship, Ferren began sculpting clay portraits. In 1929, Ferren had saved enough money to travel to Europe, where he met artist Hans Hofmann. In Munich, he saw an exhibition of works by Henri Matisse, which influenced Ferren to become a painter. He sat in on classes and attended drawing sessions at Parisian art schools Académie Ranson and Académie de la Grande Chaumière while working at a local artists' café. After traveling, Ferren returned to California and showed his first solo exhibition at the Art Center in San Francisco.

Ferren returned to Paris in 1931 and remained there through the 1930s. In Paris, Ferren exhibited with and befriended avant-garde artists who helped him explore his own style and technique. These artists included Manuel Ortiz de Zárate whose daughter he married, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Jean Hélion, Georges Vantongerloo, Naum Gabo, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst, and André Breton. Ferran also met Pierre Matisse, gallerist and son of artist Henri Matisse, who exhibited his work in his New York gallery in 1936.

In 1938, Ferran divorced and returned to the United States, settling in New York. Though he attended American Abstract Artist meetings, he felt little affiliation with the group. During World War II, Ferran traveled to Europe and North Africa while serving with the Office of War and Information. After the war, like many other artists, Ferren gave up incorporating figures in his paintings and embraced Abstract Expressionism, a movement which is characterized by strong, gestural brushwork, spontaneity, and the manifestation of the artistÌ's emotions on canvas.
Ferran's untitled airbrush work on paper is from the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Ferran believed that painting could unravel the truth behind the false appearance of reality. In this work, a centralized black form slides down from the top of the painting. This form is surrounded by floating gestural, light blue cloud-like forms. The floating forms juxtapose the heavy black form which is drawn downward by gravity.


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