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Rolph Scarlett (1889–1984) is a modernist artist renowned and celebrated in the international art community for his work as an abstract painter, graphic artist and modernist designer. Born in Guelph, Ontario, he began his first artistic training through private tutoring, followed by academic art instruction and a 4-year jewellery apprenticeship.

Scarlett had worked and lived the largest part of his life in the United States. His paintings and artwork have been exhibited in some of the most important established Galleries and Museums in the United States, Canada and Europe, and are part of many important public collections, such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – New York, Amon Carter Museum – Fort Worth – Texas, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Museum of Art – Carnegie Institute – Pittsburgh.

Scarlett’s dedication to modernism was expressed in his art and design work. Although Scarlett also created action paintings and surrealist works, he especially loved and was devoted to geometric abstract non-objective painting. He describes this form as an expression of pure creation.

In his modernist tradition, Scarlett created set designs for films. He was a stage designer and created designs for George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. He worked as a freelance designer for engineering firms and designed a guided missile for the British War Office in London (1937). Scarlett was an esteemed modernist designer who created modern designs for the industrial, theatrical, domestic product and jewellery industries.

In 1926, Scarlett’s painting, Static, was awarded first prize for modernist work at the Eighth Annual exhibition of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies at the Toledo Museum of Art. The Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York (later named the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) first opened in 1939, and Scarlett’s oil painting on canvas, Composition 1938-39, was included in the inaugural exhibition Art of Tomorrow.

Scarlett was appointed chief lecturer at the Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York (Guggenheim) and his paintings were included in 11 of the Museum’s (Guggenheim) Group Exhibitions for renowned American Non-objective Painters. The Guggenheim Museum purchased sixty paintings, monoprints and gouaches on paper from Rolph Scarlett.

Scarlett was a renowned and prolific painter who created abstract works in oil, watercolour, gouache and monoprint.  He profoundly made his mark, in both New York and internationally, as a geometric abstract painter during the 1930s and 1940s.

Solo Exhibitions

  • 1979 – Listen with Your Eyes. Kleinert Gallery, Woodstock, New York.
  • 1982 – Rolph Scarlett: Works on Paper from c. 1940. Washburn Gallery, New York (exhibition brochure, 6 plates).
  • 1983 – Rolph Scarlett: Drawings and Watercolors. Washburn Gallery, New York (exhibition brochure, 9 plates).
  • 1985 – Rolph Scarlett, Drawings and Watercolors. Washburn Gallery, New York.
  • 1987 – Rolph Scarlett, Paintings and Works on Paper (II). Washburn Gallery, New York.
  • 1988 – Rolph Scarlett: A Selection of Prints from the Estate. Associated American Artists, New York (exhibition brochure).
  • 1989 – Rolph Scarlett: Designs for the Theatre. Stubbs Books & Prints, New York (44 pieces).
  • 1990 – Rolph Scarlett. Struve Gallery, Chicago (Catalogue, 13 plates).
  • 1991 – Rolph Scarlett 1889-1984. Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York.
  • 1993 – Rolph Scarlett, Early Master of the Non-objective. Woodstock Artists Association, Woodstock, New York (catalogue, 7 plates).
  • 1993 – Rolph Scarlett: Monoprints. Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York.
  • 1994 – Rolph Scarlett: Gouaches and Prints from the 1930s and 1940s. Beth Urdang Gallery, Boston.
  • 1995 – Rolph Scarlett, Works on Paper c. 1943. Washburn Gallery, New York exhibition brochure, 2 plates).
  • 1997 – Rolph Scarlett: Art, Design & Jewelry. Preview exhibition organized by the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph;
  • Art Gallery of the Canadian Embassy, Washington, DC. (exhibition brochure, 8 plates, 118 pieces).
  • 1997 – Rolph Scarlett (1889-1984). Fletcher Gallery, Woodstock, New York.
  • 2000 – Rolph Scarlett (1889-1984). Uptown Gallery Downsview, Ontario (catalogue, 59 plates, 59 pieces).
  • 2000-01 – Rolph Scarlett: Art, Design & Jewelry. Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, Ontario (148 pieces). Exhibition travelled to Kelowna Art Gallery, Kelowna, British Columbia, 2001 (146 pieces).
  • 2002 – Rolph Scarlett: Abstract Expressionist Works from the 1940s and 1950s. Fletcher Gallery, Woodstock, New York.
  • 2003 – Rolph Scarlett, Art, Design and Jewellery (organized by the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, Ontario). Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Quebec (92 pieces).
  • 2005 – An important collection of paintings, watercolours, and gouaches by Rolph Scarlett. La Parete Gallery, Toronto, Ontario.
  • 2005 -Rolph Scarlett Paintings and Works on Paper. The exhibition traces the artist’s development as a non-objective painter working in a variety of idioms. It includes geometric abstractions, “lyrical” abstractions, gestural drip paintings, and hard-edged geometric works. Lecture by Ann Sievers. Saint Joseph College Art Gallery. New York, NY.

Group Exhibitions

  • 1926 – Eighth Annual Exhibition of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies. The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio.
  • 1927 – Ninth Annual Exhibition of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies. The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio.
  • 1928 – Tenth Annual Exhibition of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies. The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio.
  • 1939 – Art of Tomorrow. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York (catalogue, 1 plate, 1 piece).
  • 1939 – Group Exhibition. Golden Gate Museum, San Francisco.
  • 1940 – Eight American Non-objective Painters: Penrod Centurion, John Ferren, Gerome Kamrowski, Hilla Rebay, Rolph Scarlett, Charles Smith, John von Wicht, Jean Xceron. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1940 – Twelve American Non-objective Painters: Emil Bisttram, Florence Brillinger, Manuel Essman, Robert Gribbock, Noah Grossman, Lawren Harris, Raymond Jonson, Hanany Meller, Agnes Pelton, Rouben Samberg, Rolph Scarlett. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1940 – Twelve American Non-objective Painters: Florence Brillinger, Penrod Centurion, Josette Coeffin, Dwinell Grant, Noah Grossman, Hanany Meller, I. Rice Pereira, Hilla Rebay, Mary Ryan, Rolph Scarlett, Charles Smith, Jean Xceron. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1940 – Ten American Non-objective Painters: Penrod Centurion, Josette Coeffin, Manuel Essman, Noah Grossman, Hanany Meller, Marie Menken, I. Rice Pereira, Mary Ryan, Rolph Scarlett, Charles G. Shaw. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1940 – Group Exhibition. Galerie Carpentier, Paris.
  • 1941 – Ten American Non-objective Painters: Florence Brillinger, Olga Egeressy, Thomas Eldred, Edward Landon, Lloyd R. Ney, Mary Ryan, Rolph Scarlett, Roland St John, Edna Tacon, Paul Tacon. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1941 – Eight Non-objective Painters: Florence Brillinger, Werner Drewes, Dwinell Grant, Maude I. Kerns, Edward London, Ted Price, Mary Ryan, Rolph Scarlett. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1941 – Eight Non-objective Painters: Thomas Eldred, Dwinell Grant, Noah Grossman, Marguerite Hohenberg, Ladislas Moholy-Nagy, Otto Nebel, I. Rice Pereira, Rolph Scarlett. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1942 – American Non-objectives. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1945 – Loan Exhibition. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1945 – Group Exhibition. Modern Age Art Gallery, New York.
  • 1947 -Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation: Zeitgenössische Kunst und Kunstpflege in U.S.A. Kunsthaus, Zurich, and Palais des Beaux- Arts, Paris.
  • 1947 – Group Exhibition. Galerie Carpentier, Paris.
  • 1947-50 -Deuxiéme Salon des réaltiés nouvelles (Museum of Non-objective Painting touring exhibition). Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1947; Karlsruhe, Kunsthalle, as Gegendstandlose Malerei in Amerika, 1948; Munich, Kunstrunde, 1948; Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, 1948 (catalogue); Frankfurt am Main, Kunstkabinett, 1948 (henceforth no catalogue); Kassel, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, October 1948; Braunschweig, Galerie Otto Rals, 1948; Hamburg, Kunstrunde, 1948; Hannover, Landesmuseum, 1949; Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle, 1949; Essen,
  • 1949 (institution unknown); Karlsruhe, Kunsthalle, 1949; Bremerhaven, Firma Nordkunst, 1949; Munich, Amerika-Haus, 1950; Bremerhaven, Amerika-Haus, 1950; Hamburg, Amerika- Haus, 1950; Bremen, Amerika-Haus, 1950; Hamburg, Amerika- Haus, 1950; Braunschweig, Amerika-Haus, 1950.
  • 1948 – Group Exhibition. The Society for Contemporary Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.
  • 1948 – Group Exhibition. The University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  • 1949 – New Exhibition, American Non-objective Painters: Jordan Belson, Ilya Bolotowsky, Kenneth Campbell, Svend Clausen, Hohannesian, Ibram Lassaw, Alice T. Mason, Lloyd Ney, Hilla Rebay, Rolph Scarlett, Zahara Schatz, Charles Smith, Lucia Stern, Robert Wolff, Jean Xceron. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1949 – New Exhibition, Non-objective American Painters. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1949 – Tenth Anniversary Exhibition, Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York.
  • 1949 – Contemporary American Painting. College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois, Champaign (catalogue, 1 piece).
  • 1950 – University of Illinois Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting. College of Fine and Applied Arts, Champaign, Illinois. American Painting Today. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  • 1951 – Contemporary American Painting. College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois, Champaign (catalogue, 1 plate, 1 piece)
  • 1951 – Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (catalogue, 1 piece).
  • 1952 – Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (catalogue, 1 piece).
  • 1953 – Contemporary American Painting. College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois, Champaign (catalogue, 1 plate, 1 piece).
  • 1955 – Museum of Non-objective Painting Loan Exhibition, Sarasota Art Association, Sarasota.
  • 1968 – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Acquisitions of the 1930s and the 1940s: A Selection of Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings in Tribute to Hilla Rebay (1890-1967). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (catalogue, 1 piece).
  • 1968 – Group Exhibition. Sarasota Art Association, Sarasota.
  • 1971 – Non-objective Paintings. Manson-Williams Proctor Institute, Utica.
  • 1977 – Visitors, Exiles and Residents: Guelph Artists Since 1827. University of Guelph Art Gallery, Guelph, Ontario (catalogue, 4 plates, 11 pieces).
  • 1980 – Group Exhibition. Zabriskie Gallery, New York
  • 1983-85 – Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America 1927-1944. Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh. (Exhibition travelled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) (catalogue, 1 plate, 1 piece).
  • 1983 – Under Glass. Washburn Gallery, New York.
  • 1984 – American Abstract Paintings from the 1930s and 1940s. Washburn Gallery, New York.
  • 1986 – Modernist Canadian Prints. Associated American Artists, New York (catalogue, 1 plate, 3 pieces).
  • 1988-89 – The Ebsworth Collection, American Modernism, 1911-1947. The St Louis Art Museum, St. Louis. (Exhibition travelled to Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Honolulu Academy of Fine Arts).
  • 1988 – Foundations of the American Avant-Garde. Struve Gallery, Chicago.
  • 1988 – American Abstract Drawing 1930-1987. Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • 1988 – Rudolf Bauer, Rolph Scarlett, Hilla Rebay. Sid Deutsch Gallery, New York.
  • 1989 – Past/Present. Washburn Gallery, New York.
  • 1989 – Modernism: Art and Design from 1925-1950. Struve Gallery, Chicago.
  • 1989 – Modern American and European Prints. Associated American Artists, New York.
  • 1989 – Hilla Rebay and Her Circle. Portico New York Inc., New York.
  • 1990 – In Review: Bolotowsky, Mason, Scarlett, Shaw. Washburn Gallery, New York (exhibition brochure, 2 plates).
  • 1990 – Under Fire. Washburn Gallery, New York.
  • 1990 – American Abstract Artists. Washburn Gallery, New York.
  • 1990 – Masters of Geometric Abstraction. Beth Urdang Fine Arts, Boston.
  • 1991 – Modern American Prints. Associated American Artists, New York.
  • 1991-92 – The Second Wave: American Abstractionists of the 1930s and 1940s. Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts. (Exhibition travelled to Samuel P. Harn Museum, University of Florida, Gainsville; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington) (catalogue).
  • l992-93 – Theme and Improvisation: Kandinsky and the American Avant-Garde, 1912-1950. Dayton Art Institute, Dayton. (Exhibition travelled to the Phillips Collection, Washington DC, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, and the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth) (catalogue, 3 plates, 3 pieces).
  • 1993 – The Uses of Geometry Then and Now. Snyder Fine Art, New York. (Catalogue, 1 plate)
  • 1994 – On Paper: Abstraction in American Art. Rosenfeld Fine Art, New York.
  • 1995 – New York: Two Different Perspectives. Beacon Hill Fine Art, New York.
  • 1996 – Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (catalogue, 1 piece).
  • 1996 – L’art deco: expression de la vie moderne 1925-1939. McCord Museum of Canadian History, Montreal (checklist, 9 pieces).
  • 1996 – The Museum of Non-objective Painting: American Abstract Art. Snyder Fine Art, New York (catalogue, 3 plates).
  • 1996 – Abstraction across America 1934-1946. Rosenfeld Gallery, New York.
  • 1996-98 – Champions of Modernism. The Castle Gallery, College of New Rochelle, Rochester, 1996; Mary Washington College Galleries, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1996; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina, 1997; Sunrise Museum, Charleston, West Virginia, 1997; Brevard Museum of Art and Science, Melbourne, Florida, 1998 (catalogue, 8 plates, 2 pieces).
  • 1997 – Singular Impressions, The Monotype in America. National Museum of American Art, Washington DC (catalogue, 1 plate, 1 piece).
  • 1997 – Group Exhibition. Beth Urdang Fine Arts, Boston.
  • 1997-2000 – Designed for Delight: Alternative Aspects of Twentieth Century Decorative Arts. Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts, Montreal, 1997; Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, 1997; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, 1998; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 1998; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, 1999; Chiostro Del Bramante, Rome, 1999; Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, 2000; Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza, La Coruna, 2000; Espace Landowski, Boulogne-Billancourt, France, 2000 (catalogue, 1 plate, 1 piece).
  • 1998 – Against All Odds: American Abstraction from the 1930s and 1940s. David Findlay Jr Inc. New York.
  • 1998 – American Abstraction of the 1930s and 1940s. The J. Donald Nichols Collection, Wake Forest University Fine Arts Gallery, Winston-Salem (catalogue, 5 plates, 5 pieces).
  • 1999 – Abstraction: The 1940s and 1950s. Washburn Gallery, New York.
  • 1999 – The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (catalogue, 1 plate, 1 piece).
  • 1999 – Americans and Expatriots: Non-objective Painting in America 1920-1950. David Findlay Jr. Inc. New York.
  • 2000 – America Gone Modern, From the Twenties to the Sixties. Spanierman Gallery, New York (catalogue, 1 plate).
  • 2001 – Abstract Expressionism: Expanding the Canons. Snyder Fine Art, New York.
  • 2002 – Art for the New Collector. Spanierman Gallery, New York (catalogue).
  • 2002 – Kindred Spirits. David Findlay Jr Inc. New York.
  • 2003 – Hilla Rebay, Rudolf Bauer and Rolph Scarlett. Snyder Fine Art, New York.

Public Collections

  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles,California
  • Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Quebec
  • Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, OntarioUniversity of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario

Publications

  • Jellinek, Roger. “Rolph Scarlett – Twentieth-Century Painter.” Canadian Art. 22:3 (May/June 1965): 23-5.
  • Kramer, Hilton. “Rolph Scarlett”. New York Times. March 1973.
  • Murray, Joan. Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1999: 51-52.
  • Nasby, Judith. Rolph Scarlett: Painter, Designer, Jeweller. McGill-Queen’s University Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press 2004. 200 pp, 78 colour images, 16 bw images.
  • Nasby, Judith, and Diane Charbonneau. “Rolph Scarlett, Discovering a Modernist Canadian Artist”. Collage, the Magazine of the Friends of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Winter 2002-3: 37.
  • “Rolph Scarlett: Factless Precisionist at Museum of Non-Objective Painting.” Art Digest 18:18 (1943).
  • Rolph Scarlett; Harriet Tannin (contributor). The Baroness, the Mogul, and the Forgotten History of the First Guggenheim Museum. Midmarch Arts Press, 2003. 168 pp.
  • “Rolph Scarlett: Retrospective in Woodstock.” Antiques and the Arts Weekly. 27 August 1993: 15.
  • “Scarlett Letters”. Hudson Valley Literary Supplement. 30 April 1992: 12-14.
  • Stern, Andrea Barrist. “Rolph Scarlett, his art, like his life, was purely inventive.” Woodsock Times. 16 August 1984.
  • Tannin, Harriet, ed. Rolph Scarlett, Early Master of the Non-objective. Woodstock, NY: Woodstock Artists Association, 1993.
  • Twine, Tinker. “Listen with Your Eyes, Rolph Scarlett Retrospective celebrates a modern master.” Woodstock Times, 29 July 1993: 1, 18, 19.
  • Webster, Judith, ed. “Rolph Scarlett: Art, Design and Jewelry”. Canadian Quarterly 5:2 (July 1997):3.
  • Woodstock Artists Association. Rolph Scarlett: Early Master of the Non-Objective. July 31-August 22, 1993. Woodstock: Woodstock Artists Association, 1993.

Exhibition Catalogue

  • Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America 1927-1944. Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh. 1983-85.Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 1996.
  • Abstraction: The 1940s and 1950s. Washburn Gallery, New York. 1999.
  • America Gone Modern, From the Twenties to the Sixties. Spanierman Gallery, New York. 2000.
  • American Abstraction of the 1930s and 1940s. The J. Donald Nichols Collection, Wake Forest University Fine Arts Gallery, Winston-Salem. 1998.
  • Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 1952.
  • Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 1951.
  • Art of Tomorrow. Museum of Non-objective Painting, New York. 1939.
  • Art for the New Collector. New York: Spanierman Gallery, 2002: 31, 45
  • Contemporary American Painting. College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois, Champaign. 1949.
  • In Review: Bolotowsky, Mason, Scarlett, Shaw. New York: Washburn Gallery, 1990.
  • Modernist Canadian Prints. Associated American Artists, New York. 1986.
  • Rolph Scarlett: Works on Paper, c. 1945. Exhibition brochure (Lorenz, Marianne). January 18-February 11, 1995. New York: Washburn Gallery, 1995.
  • Rolph Scarlett. Exhibition brochure (Struve, Keith). Struve Gallery, Chicago. 16 pages; 14 color plates. 1990.
  • Rolph Scarlett: A Collection of Prints from the Estate. New York: Associated American Artists, 1988.
  • Rolph Scarlett: Drawings and Watercolors. April 26-May 14, 1983. New York: Washburn Gallery, 1983.
  • Rolph Scarlett: Works from c. 1940.January 12- February 6, 1982. New York: Washburn Gallery, 1982.
  • Singular Impressions, The Monotype in America. National Museum of American Art, Washington DC. 1997.
  • The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 1999
  • The Museum of Non-objective Painting: American Abstract Art. Exibition brochure. Snyder Fine Art, New York. 1996.
  • The Second Wave: American Abstractionists of the 1930s and 1940s. Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts. 1991-92
  • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Acquisitions of the 1930s and the 1940s: A Selection of Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings in Tribute to Hilla Rebay (1890-1967). Exhibition brochure. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 1968.
  • The Uses of Geometry Then and Now. Snyder Fine Art, New York. 1992-93
  • Theme and Improvisation: Kandinsky and the American Avant-Garde, 1912-1950. Dayton Art Institute, Dayton. l992-93