What is it?
Carl Holty (1900–1973)
Oil on canvas-covered Masonite
35 5/8 x 41 5/8 in.
About the Work
Carl Holty’s Central Park is highly abstract, a tapestry of colorful squares although the relationship of blue and green suggests a reductive, summary landscape. The canvas pulses with energy—conveying a sense of growth and promise like the burgeoning of spring in Central Park.
Holty lived a cosmopolitan life, so it is not surprising that he was among those artists who brought European abstraction into American art. He was born in Freiburg, Germany, where his father studied medicine before settling permanently in Wisconsin. At only age ten, Holty had his first meaningful encounter with art when his grandfather took him to the Layton Art Gallery. “This is the day I would say I was born,” he later reflected. The aspiring painter got his first taste of heady European modernism a few years later when Gimbel’s department store mounted a large traveling exhibition of cubist paintings.
Holty’s distinctive style began to take shape when, in 1926, he traveled to Munich to study with Hans Hofmann, whose teaching involved art theory based in the iconoclasm of Cézanne, Cubism, and Kandinsky. Hofmann also encouraged his students to discover their individual voices: “Art teaching is not soap manufacture,” he wrote, “The value in the artist is apt to be that of differences rather than that of likeness.” When Holty returned to the United States, his work was transformed: he explored form, space, and color as ends in themselves rather than a means to represent figurative themes.