Tuesday, September 08, 2015


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Walter Quirt

Walter Wellington Quirt was born in Iron River, Michigan, on November 24, 1902, according to the catalog, Walter Quirt, a Retrospective: January 18-February 29, 1980, University Gallery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

The 1910 U.S. Federal Census recorded Quirt as the fifth of six children born to Arthur, a Canadian, and Theresa. His father was a water mill operator. The family resided on Sixth Street in Iron River.

Quirt’s home address was 324 Sixth Street, Iron River in the 1920 census. At age 17, Quirt was a surfaceman at the iron mine. His father was a timber logger.

According to the Retrospective catalog, Quirt studied at the Layton School of Art, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1921 to 1923. The 1922 Milwaukee city directory listed his address at 510 Jackson, and occupation as student. From 1923 to 1924, Quirt was a student-instructor at Layton. Quirt was a full Layton instructor from 1924 to 1928. The 1926 Milwaukee directory said Quirt was a teacher and resided at 88 Knapp. 

Quirt’s address was 453 Jefferson in the 1928 directory which included his wife’s name, Martha; the date of their marriage is not known. They divorced in 1939. The Retrospective identified her as Martha Pearse.

From 1926 to 1928, Quirt’s watercolors were exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago and the New York Watercolor Club. The Retrospective also said Quirt “studied as a guest at the McDowell Colony, Peterboro, New Hampshire, in the summer and fall of 1928 and winter and spring of 1929.”

In Fall 1929 Quirt moved to New York City where he “attended meetings of the newly organized John Reed Club Arts Section.” He became its secretary in 1932 and showed his work at John Reed Club exhibitions.

In the early 1930s, Quirt contributed illustrations and cartoons to the New Masses, and New Pioneer. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Quirt drew the Jim Martin strip, for the Daily Worker, from August 21, 1933 to January 30, 1934. Howard Newhouse wrote the strip from August 21 to September 7, 1993 with Quirt handling the writing thereafter. Artists on the Left: American Artists and the Communist Movement, 1926–1956 (2002) said “by 1931 [Quirt] was staff artist to the Trade Union Educational League’s paper, Labor Unity.”

Quirt observed Jose Orozco painting murals at Dartmouth, and, in 1934, was a guest at Yaddo Colony.

On October 16, 1935, Quirt was in the WPA/Federal Art Project with a position of artist. Later, he was master artist from March 12, 1936 to May 10, 1938. It was in 1937 that he enrolled in the mural project. Quirt remained with the WPA/FAP through 1942.

In the second half of the 1930s, Quirt was an instructor at American Artists School. He crossed paths with artists Raphael Soyer, Romare Bearden and Salvador Dali. The Julien Levy Gallery, in 1936, held Quirt’s first one-man exhibition. The gallery’s second Quirt show, in 1939, featured his colored drawings.

For the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatric Pavilion, Quirt painted “The Growth of Medicine from Primitive Times” murals in 1937. Quirt’s assistant was Eleanor Falk whom he married in 1939.

The 1940 census recorded Quirt and Eleanor in Manhattan, New York City at 114 Perry Street. An exhibition of Quirt’s tiny paintings was at the Julien Levy Gallery in December 1940.

In the early 1940s, Quirt gave private lessons at his studio. The 1942 and 1944 Manhattan telephone directories listed Quirt’s address as 219 West 14th Street. Quirt exhibited at American Associated Artists Gallery, the Downtown Gallery, Durlacher Brothers Gallery and the Brooklyn Museum.

In 1944, Quirt moved from New York City and returned to the Layton School in Milwaukee. Also that year, his son, Andrew, was born. Quirt was one of over 100 artists who did a portrait of their artist friend Abraham Walkowitz. Twenty-five portraits, including Quirt’s, were published in Life, February 21, 1944.

Quirt moved on, in 1945, to an assistant professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing. The Fall 1947 found assistant professor Quirt teaching at the University of Minnesota where he remained until his death.

From 1945 to 1947, Quirt exhibited at Durlacher Brothers Gallery; the Michigan Artists Exhibition which awarded him the Cranbrook Prize; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and St. Paul Gallery, St. Paul, Minnesota.

His son, Peter, was born in 1948.

Throughout the 1940s, Quirt proposed projects to his friend Stuart Davis, who declined Quirt’s overture to teach at Michigan State University.
His son, Jonathan, was born in 1952.

In the 1950s Quirt exhibited his work in New York and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1955 he was associate professor in the Art Department at the University of Minnesota.
Quirt passed away March 19, 1968, in Minneapolis. The cause was lung cancer.

—Alex Jay


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]