Artist Trivia: Henry Pearson

Henry Pearson, Untitled (Painted Sphere), 20th Century, Acrylic or oil on paper mache, 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 x 11″, Gift of Terry and Ed Duffy, 1998.33.1

Who is this artist?

This artist was born in 1914 in Kingston, North Carolina, and after studying at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill,  attended Yale University School of Drama. At Yale the artist studied set design and earned an MFA.  Serving eleven years in the US Army, both during and after World War II, the artist was assigned to interpret topographic maps as a member of the Army Air Corps. Returning to the United States in 1953, this veteran enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City, studying with artists Reginald Marsh and Will Barnet.  During a time when the Op Art movement was garnering interest, the artist was able to combine mapmaking experience with experimentation with optical effects. Using undulating parallel lines in both painting and sculpture, the artist became a pioneer of the Op Art movement, and in 1965 participated in the exhibition at MoMA, Responsive Eye.

We celebrate this artist on October 8 on what would have been their 108th birthday.

Who is Henry Pearson?

Henry Pearson received his B.A. from UNC and an MFA from Yale where he studied set design. He served in the Army Air Corps, primarily in Japan, during and after World War II. Pearson worked as a cartographer, and this experience would later inform his artwork, as he explored the use of line, abstracted in ink and oil on canvas or through sculpture.   Inspired by Will Barnet’s geometric art series as well as his own work as a mapmaker, he experimented with undulating parallel lines, similar to those of topographic maps. His art placed him at the forefront of the Op Art (Optical Art) movement. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. have all collected his work. Grace Glueck of the New York Times reviewed one of Pearson’s exhibitions in 2003, describing his work as, “breathing, pulsating surfaces of labyrinthine whorls and lines, they suggest rippling water, the combings of plowed land, the heavings and foldings of earth and ocean.”

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