Agnes Pelton: 'All my abstract paintings have to do with light, because light is all this life.'  9 minutes to read

Agnes Pelton: ‘All my abstract paintings have to do with light, because light is all this life.’ 9 minutes to read


The attraction of the almost abstract landscape paintings by American painter Agnes Lawrence Pelton (1881-1961) is made up of harmonious elements, somewhat unique as the painter’s own life. this. Painting of Agnes Pelton It may be fuzzy and difficult to understand for some people, but it is still possible to find harmony with the spiritual experience of many other viewers.

Photo: Whitney museum. America

Organic lines like sinusoidal curves, vivid gems-like colors, and details that sparkle in the soft sky; the stars burn and the phenomenon of shimmering light, often suspended on sand dunes, majestic mountain peaks or mysterious waters. Meticulous – sometimes fussy – description of Agnes Pelton The hidden silhouettes seem to be a perfect sum from the abstract vision of Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944), somewhat dreamlike topography and flora Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) as well as the movies Fantasia gorgeous comes from Walt Disney.


Private life and artistic start

Agnes Pelton, 1957. Photo is owned by Nyna Dolby and Carolyn Tilton Cunningham.

Born in Stuttgart (Germany) and living with his parents in many places and moved to America as a child, Agnes Lawrence Pelton have a pretty bohemian education. Mother is a musician, along Agnes returned to the United States to settle in Brooklyn and open a music school to support the family financially. Father’s Agnes died at relatives’ homes when the artist was nine. Agnes Pelton lived with her mother until her death in 1920.

At the age of 40, the painter left the city for the rather isolated countryside on the east of Long Island. Agnes Pelton live in a windmill (also her studio) and start a lonely life that lasts for the rest of her life. Agnes increasingly infatuated with various mystical belief systems, including New Thought, astrology and most importantly, Theosophy and its branches, especially Agni Yoga. (or Morality). The female artist also left her old nostalgic style of love painting in pursuit of more relaxed modernism.

By 1926, Agnes Pelton has embarked on a series of paintings that make up the bulk of the exhibition at the Whitney Museum recently. The artist’s psychologically abstract elements form the concepts as well as images for her esoteric and meditative studies.

Agnes Pelton worked at the studio circa 1923.
Agnes Pelton Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

In 1932, Agnes Pelton moved to Cathedral City in the California desert. In that remote land and quite late in her life, she really stepped into the path of art. Her paintings are nothing like her paintings Pelton In American art in the 20th century, there is not only a mixture of Theosophy, Buddhism, astrology and the occult but an immense visual harmony, showing the widespread popularity of Spiritual beliefs are hard to resist at that time.


Works by Agnes Pelton: psychic, magical and controversial

The visual vocabulary in this artist’s modestly sized paintings is even more distinctive. Her compositions, too, are quite quirky and somehow make them less valuable and less expected.

Agnes Lawrence Pelton, Star Gazer (1929)

Eg Star Gazer (1929), a misty pink lotus bud surrounded by a transparent glass sepals, rising from the soft mountains kissed by the sun; in the distance is the bright apricot star in the sky that has turned indigo. Although it is impossible to determine the origin of the images in the paintings, we can still affirm their connection with the mysticism of Eastern origin. However, for contemporary viewers, quality lies in the color scheme in the paintings, creating a sense of a deep faith expressed in a poetic-beautiful form, giving the work a magical appearance. as if it could be touched.

Agnes Pelton; Messengers; 1932; oil painting
Phoenix Museum of Art

Despite the seriousness of the spiritual’s feelings Agnes Pelton as well as the subtlety in individual works, when viewing the works continuously, we often see repetitive features in some images. The star is attached to the middle and creates a balance for the work Star Gazer The year 1929 is also repeated in breathtakingly perfect pictures like Sand Storm and Messengers (both from 1932) and Even Song (1934).

Agnes Pelton, Room Decoration in Purple and Gray (1917)

An illustrative sensitivity is pervasive in his paintings Agnes Pelton.

Room Decoration in Purple and Gray (1917), shows a woman in a plum-colored robe, her arms crossed across her chest and staring at a yellow bird surrounded by a dim light. An image of the woman appears like an angel, evoking the classic idea of ​​femininity, or two little pigeons appear in the lower left corner of the picture. Winter (1933) and picture Orbits (1934) – a distant dreamy picture with tiny circles of light and dots attached to the stars, all with composition repetition. Incandescent filaments, balls of light and flower shapes often appear in the center of your paintings Agnes Pelton. These visual elements are rooted in dreams, visions and illusions that often come when the artist sleeps or meditates, and they manifest quite clearly (as evidenced by these factors she carefully sketched out in notebook, recently exhibited by the Phoenix Museum).

Agnes Pelton, Orbits, 1934

When that element in the picture Agnes Often approached as a schematic or delusional, incorporating abstractions into mystical thoughts or trance can lead to unexpected associations. One example is the picture Return (1940), features a transparent silhouette of a bird soaring over an oasis with a star on its beak. This could easily be seen as taken from another work produced in southern California that same year, Fantasia from Walt Disney, including abstract scenes from filmmakers avant-garde modern Oskar Fischinger shaping. The relationship between the paintings of Agnes Pelton with celebrities creates serious problems with her work: the visualization of the artist’s sincere beliefs is often viewed as empty of meaning by those who do not seek.

Agnes Pelton, Return (1940)

Despite the appreciation of Agnes Pelton in mysticism, she remained a devout Christian throughout her life. Michael Zakian – the curator for a recent painting exhibition entitled “Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist” in the US writes in the exhibition catalog: “She always respected her family’s core Christian belief that the world is a precious gift from God and that the purpose of life is the pursuit of the good. ” With Alina Cohen, the writer for the article about Agnes Pelton on Artsy suppose, I think: Such sentiment can bring benefits to the community, but when it is directed outward, it becomes an obstacle in modern art. If the artists believe everything they have been told, there is no room for more pressing questions or mysteries to fuel the work’s creation. From that perspective, their work becomes more calm and secure.


Agnes Pelton, “heart music,” 1932

Anyway, American painter Agnes Pelton (1881-1961) with her unique and fanciful paintings reminds that the history of modern Abstraction alone and women’s contribution to art history are still being written. Candlestick. Painting of Agnes Pelton It may be fuzzy and difficult to understand for some people, but it is still possible to find harmony with the spiritual experience of many other viewers. One important thing: she painted with an open mind and embraced pure beliefs, finding the ‘soul’ everywhere, even if it was just a barren desert.


Editor: Le Lin
Reference: BorderCrossings / Artsy / The New York Times


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