Herman Maril: The Strong Forms of Our Experience features 90 works by the great mid-Atlantic Modernist. Maril is best known for his oil paintings, but works on paper were also a major part of his production throughout his career. Ink and wash drawings, gouaches, watercolors and prints will all be featured alongside selected oil paintings. The exhibition surveys Maril’s career from the 1920s to the 1980s, a project that Arkansas Arts Center Curator of Drawings, Ann Prentice Wagner, has been researching for seven years. In writing the exhibition catalog, Wagner used newly available archival sources, interviews and recently conserved works of art to tell Maril’s story in greater and more accurate detail than ever before.
Maril, the artist and art professor, was an independent American original in an era defined by groups and movements like abstract expressionism and pop art. His strongest stylistic affiliation was to French modernists Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne and Georges Braque. While the center of the American art world was New York, Maril remained loyal to his home city of Baltimore, Maryland. He traveled to remain in touch with the wider world of art, but always returned home, where gritty Baltimore streets, serene Cape Cod beaches and horses in Maryland fields were often the subjects of his work.
The son of poor Lithuanian immigrants, Maril always dreamed of becoming an artist. After graduating from the Maryland Institute, the artist worked as a janitor to pay for a studio as he developed his modernist style. His major break came in 1933 when Washington, D.C. collector and museum founder Duncan Phillips spotted the artist’s work. Maril was then chosen to participate in the Public Works of Art Project, the first of the New Deal art programs, and his work was published and shown in Baltimore, Washington and New York. After serving in the Army during World War II, he taught studio art at the University of Maryland. He often traveled to the artists’ colony, Provincetown, on Cape Cod, where he befriended giants such as Milton Avery and Mark Rothko.