Described by Robert Motherwell as “one of the most splendid, radiant, and inspired painters of my generation,” Fritz Bultman was a central member of the New York School. A New Orleans native, he studied with Morris Graves and then moved to Munich for two years. There he boarded with Maria (Miz) Hofmann, the wife of Hans Hofmann; after Bultman returned to the United States he studied with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown and New York City.
By the late 1940s, he was showing his work with others identified as Abstract Expressionists; the New York Times praised the paintings in 1949 as possessing a “remarkable power of organization” that created a “welcome clarity” in his densely arranged compositions. In 1950, he was among the group dubbed the “Irascibles” after protesting the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s conservative exhibition program, confirming his place in the avant-garde. He did not appear in Nina Leen’s famous photograph of the group published in Life magazine on January 15, 1951, because he was living abroad. A grant-funded period in Italy in 1951 allowed him to learn sculpture, and his bronzes from
the 1950s and 60s suggest both monumentality and organicism. He would incorporate sculpture into his work for the rest of his career.
After his return from Italy, the early 1950s were marked by a retreat from the art world while he pursued Freudian therapy; the years after intensive analysis were marked by heightened activity and frequent exhibitions. He showed with the Stable Gallery, Martha Jackson, and Gallery Mayer in the late 1950s.
In the 1960s, he began exploring collage in earnest, employing both found and painted papers. The medium would become central to his work. Well established by the 1960s, Bultman received awards and grants from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Guggenheim Foundation, and he studied in Paris on a Fulbright fellowship. He taught at numerous institutions around the country, including Pratt Institute, Hunter College, and Tulane University. He created and exhibited his work regularly until his death in 1985.
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