Wood Gaylor and American Modernism

January 23–May 23, 2021    *Temporarily closed April 5-16

Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957)
Abstract Figure Study, 1915
Watercolor, brush, and ink on heavy wove paper, 10 x 10 in.
Collection of Terry and Margaret Lenzner

Teeming scenes of festive revelers, clowns and performers, and his fellow artists are the signature subject matter of Wood Gaylor’s raucous paintings. In 1916, Gaylor (1883-1957) joined Walt Kuhn and other prominent modern artists in New York City to form The Penguin group. The irreverent association put on exhibitions, held weekly sketching sessions with nude models, and mounted fantastic Arts Balls, complete with costumes, comical skits, musicians, and papier-mâché props. Gaylor captured these spirited events in paintings featuring brightly-colored, flat, outlined figures in grand spaces.

Wood Gaylor and American Modernism includes two dozen artworks by Gaylor, including paintings from the Smith College Museum of Art, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. These loans are interspersed with paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the Heckscher Museum’s collection by artists in Gaylor’s social and artistic circles.

Throughout the 1920s, Gaylor spent summers in Ogunquit, Maine, where he and other artists became some of the first collectors of American folk art. The flattening and distortion in early American painting provided affirmation for Gaylor’s faux-naïve style. The personal relationships Gaylor developed in Maine were among the most significant of his life, including his marriage to fellow artist Adelaide Lawson, whose work will also be on view.

Gaylor continued to organize and depict grand events of the New York art world throughout the 1920s and into the mid-1930s, when he and his family relocated to Glenwood Landing on Long Island. They held exhibitions and art classes in their barn and yard, as depicted in Painting Lesson on the Lawn (ca. 1952).

This exhibition is organized by the Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont. The Heckscher Museum is grateful to Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts, LLC, for supporting this exhibition and the accompanying catalogue. 

Exhibition Catalogue

Wood Gaylor and American Modernism, 1913-1936
Available for sale at the Museum
$30, hardcover

Wood Gaylor and American Modernism, 1913-1936, accompanying a traveling exhibition organized by the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont, is the first book-length work focused on this artist’s contributions to American modernism in the early twentieth century. Gaylor’s paintings, teeming with color and action, depict the spirited gatherings of modern artists and arts promoters. As Gaylor’s images document important events in the art world of the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s, so too does his technique provide insight into the factors impacting the evolution of a distinctly American modern style. With contributions by Fleming museum curator Andrea P. Rosen, independent art historian Dr. Christine Isabelle Oaklander, and an interview with the artist’s son Wynn Gaylor, this ground-breaking catalogue paints a vivid picture of the heady and vibrant post-Armory Show American art world.

Also available to purchase online


Exhibition Related Videos

Join Fleming Museum of Art exhibition Curator Andrea Rosen and Curator of Education Alice Boone as they discuss the work of Wood Gaylor set against the backdrop of the New York art scene, 1913-1936. In this five-part series, the curators explore the training and inspiration that led Gaylor to his own unique style and subject matter.

This traveling exhibition was curated by the Fleming Museum of Art, originally titled Let’s Have a Ball: Wood Gaylor and the New York Art Scene, 1913-1936.

Watch Full Series

Watch by Episode:  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5

Curators in Conversation Virtual Event

Join Heckscher Museum of Art Curator Karli Wurzelbacher and Fleming Museum of Art Curator Andrea Rosen for this program held on Zoom on February 9, 2021 for current Museum Members and Donors.

The two discuss the art of Wood Gaylor, his connections to artists including Florine Stettheimer and Louis Bouché, and his life on Long Island.

Watch video

Watch more videos on The Heckscher Museum YouTube Channel



January 22, 2021
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