Bradley Walker Tomlin – Music Rack

Photograph by R. H. Hensleigh and Tim Thayer.

Bradley Walker Tomlin

Music Rack, 1944

Born 1899, Syracuse, New York; died 1953, New York, New York
Oil on canvas
42 ⅛ x 24 ⅞ inches
Gift of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth through The Cranbrook Foundation
CAM 1945.25

Bradley Walker Tomlin gained notoriety in 1951 as part of an alliance of painters who protested The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s conservative exhibition program. Dubbed by Life Magazine as “The Irascible 18,” the New York group included rising luminaries such as Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Tomlin’s close friend, Jackson Pollock. The Irascibles represented a radical break with the European modernist tradition and solidified the American postwar movement of Abstract Expressionism. Tomlin’s career was brief compared to most of his illustrious colleagues. Plagued by poor health, which prohibited him from active duty in the armed forces, he died of a heart attack in 1953.

Music Rack illustrates the strong influence of Cubism on Tomlin’s formative work. In this visual evocation of music, a still-life disintegrates into an array of random fragments. A songbird and music staff are among the few recognizable elements that can be gleaned from the restless composition. This improvisational approach to line and shape prefigures the overall calligraphic surface that characterized Tomlin’s mature paintings by the end of the decade.

Joe Houston
from Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures (Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Art Museum, 2004)
Category(s): Paintings

Decade(s): 1940s

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