Marshall Glasier (1902 - 1988)

Birth date: 1902 Death date: 1988  
Birth location: Wauwatosa, WI Death location: New York City, NY  
Media: Painting , Painting / Oil Web site:
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Marshall Glasier

Marshall Glasier (1902-1988) was an artist best known for his work that combined Regionalism and Surrealism. The result, commonly referred to as magic realism, took the figurative and narrative approach of the Regionalists and the mystery, humor, and irony of Surrealism.

Glasier was born in Wauwatosa, but raised in Madison. He was not a great student, but showed an early interest in drawing. Glasier credits his status as a twin to his artistic pursuits as an adult. They were commonly mistaken for the other, and on at least one occasion Marshall took the punishment meant for his twin brother. He was quoted, “Later I was to realize that my being an artist was a continual search for an identity, since I was never sure of having one.”

He continued producing art after high school as he bounced around art programs. He started at the University of Wisconsin, but didn’t last long. Then Glasier spent time at the Chicago Art Institute, but never received a degree. During this time, he was engaged to be married, but his fiancé left him and married his best friend. His ensuing sadness led him to enlist in the Marines in 1924. After his four years of service, he returned to civilian life, but was still unsure about his career track. He seemed to find a certain degree of success in commercial art until the Great Depression hit.  His stylized drawings led one ad executive to give him some advice: go back to school and develop a more natural drawing style. He heeded that advice and studied with George Grosz in the Art Student’s League. After six years in New York, Glasier returned home to Madison to apply his education in a different setting. He went about capturing the Wisconsin landscape in a fresh and cosmopolitan way.

In Madison, Glasier had attracted a group of local artists and students who appreciated his brand of art. In the Midwest art scene, his works stood in strong contrast to that of John Steuart Curry—a well-known Regionalist painter and University of Wisconsin’s Artist in Residence from 1936-1946. They each had a very different philosophy and approach, and Glasier regularly depicted Curry as a member of the ‘old guard’.  Glasier would hold informal salons where they would discuss not only art, but politics, music, and literature. As his group got bigger, it also included people from Milwaukee and Chicago. Notable members of this group include Gertrude Abercrombie, John Wilde, Karl Priebe, Dudley Huppler, and Sylvia Fein. Glasier enjoyed these salons as a way to exchange ideas with people from all different backgrounds. When the group couldn’t get together at any of their studios or homes, they exchanged letters almost daily. For some of the younger members, Glasier was a sort of father figure who encouraged them to develop their own style. Sylvia Fein said that he helped teach her “how to draw my own personal way and how to draw while transforming and taming nature and human nature.”

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