Regarded as a gifted and original American modernist, Arnold Friedman came late into his artistic career and did not devote himself to painting on a full-time basis until 1933 at the age of 59. His known oeuvre comprises approximately 300 works. Friedman stands apart from the circle of Abstract Expressionists, yet his late abstract landscapes display intense focus on materiality that was shared by members of the younger generation.
Friedman was born to Hungarian Jewish parents in New York City, where he worked as a post office clerk for some forty years, painting only on evenings and weekends. Under the auspices of the WPA’s Federal Art Project, Friedman painted several murals for post offices and other buildings.
Friedman began formal training in 1905 at the Art Students League in New York and developed a representational early style. In 1909 he took a six-month leave of absence
from his postal job to study art in Paris. He was most influenced by the Pointillism of Camille Pissarro, but his subsequent work also reveals his appreciation for other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists. Friedman also experimented briefly with Cubism.
Upon his return to New York, Friedman’s style favored cool tonalities and smooth finishes. He painted landscapes, portraits, and nudes that expressed his deep commitment to color. Over time, the artist abandoned the brush for a palette knife and developed an atmospheric abstract style that incorporated textural effects and abbreviated forms. Friedman died in 1946.
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