Charles Green Shaw (1892-1974)
The Michael Scharf Family Collection
Charles Green Shaw (1892-1974)

Plastic Polygon

Charles Green Shaw (1892-1974)
Plastic Polygon
signed and dated 'Shaw 1937' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
45 ¾ x 30 ¾ in. (116.2 x 78.1 cm.)
Painted in 1937.
Zabriskie Gallery, New York.
Mr. Bernard F. Curry, Palm Beach, Florida, by 1973.
Washburn Gallery, New York.
Mr. and Mrs. Rolf Weinberg, Zurich, Switzerland, by 1980.
[With]Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York.
Terra Museum of American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, acquired from the above, 1986.
[With]Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York.
Southwestern Bell Corporation Collection, Houston, Texas, acquired from the above, 1988.
[With]Washburn Gallery, New York; Snyder Fine Art, New York.
Judith-Anne Corrente, New York, acquired from the above, 1993.
Snyder Fine Art, New York; Elizabeth Moore Fine Art, LLC., New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2003.
G. Stavitsky, "New York Cubists: Works by A.E. Gallatin, George L.K. Morris and Charles G. Shaw," Arts Magazine, vol. 62, no. 8, April 1988, pp. 83-84, cover illustration.
T.A. Neff, ed., A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art: Selections from the Collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, and the Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, 1987, p. 286, illustrated.
G. Glueck, "American Modernism Goes Uptown; Brickwork and Poetic License," The New York Observer, October 23, 1995, illustrated.
"1937," ARTnews, January 1996, p. 126, illustrated.
S. Adams, "Cubists in Love," Forbes, March 3, 2003, p. 121.
H. Kramer, "Saluting Pioneer Abstractionists," Art & Antiques, March 2003, pp. 134-35, illustrated.
W.C. Agee et al., The Scharf Collection: A History Revealed, New York, 2018, pp. 148-9, 182, illustrated.
New York, Zabriskie Gallery, Geometric Abstractions of the 1930s, June 1-July 14, 1972, no. 19.
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Post-Mondrian Abstraction in America, March 12-May 13, 1973, n.p., illustrated (as Untitled).
New York, Washburn Gallery, Charles Shaw: Work from 1935-1942, December 2, 1975-January 10, 1976.
Ridgefield, Connecticut, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Charles Shaw: Perspective, June 5-August 7, 1977.
Winterthur, Switzerland, Kunst Museum; Hannover, Germany, Kestner Gesselschaft; Ludwigshafen, Germany, Wilhelm Hack Museum, Rot konstruiert“ und „Super Table“: Eine Schweizer Sammlung Moderner Kunst 1909-1939, March 2, 1980-August 17, 1980, p. 126.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art; San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America, 1927-1944, November 5, 1983-September 9, 1984, pp. 136, 218-19, 243, no. 126, illustrated.
New York, Washburn Gallery, The Park Avenue Cubists, July 21-August 30, 1985.
Brooklyn, New York, The Brooklyn Museum; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art; Atlanta, Georgia, The High Museum of Art, The Machine Age in America, 1918-1941, October 17, 1986-February 14, 1988, pp. 243, 245, fig. 7.50, illustrated.
New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York Cubists: Works by A.E. Gallatin, George L.K. Morris, and Charles G. Shaw from the Thirties and Forties, January 16-February 27, 1988, pp. 36, 50, no. 74, cover illustration.
València, Spain, Centre Julio González, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Paris 1930: Arte Abstracto, Arte Concreto: Cercle et Carré, September 20-December 2, 1990, pp. 299, 354, no. 244, illustrated.
New York, Snyder Fine Art, The Uses of Geometry: Then and Now, October 29-December 4, 1993, p. 15, illustrated.
New York, Snyder Fine Art, 1937-American Abstract Art, September-October 1995, p. 19, cover illustration.
New York, Snyder Fine Art, Modern American Masterworks, September 13-October 26, 2002.
Montclair, New Jersey, Montclair Art Museum, Passionate Pursuits: Hidden Treasure of the Garden State, September 29, 1996-January 5, 1997.
New York, New York University, Grey Art Gallery; Andover, Massachusetts, Phillips Academy, Addison Gallery of American Art; Gainesville, Florida, University of Florida, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, The Park Avenue Cubists: Gallatin, Morris, Frelinghuysen and Shaw, January 14-November 30, 2003, pp. 8, 76, 94, pl. i, cover illustration.

Brought to you by

William Haydock
William Haydock

Lot Essay

In his 1938 essay entitled “The Plastic Polygon,” Charles Green Shaw explains, “What I have termed the plastic polygon—a several sided figure divided into a broken pattern of rectangles—developed in the course of years from certain experiments made by myself in 1933. In the main these experiments were founded upon the New York scene—or rather the Manhattan skyline—treated semi-cubistically.” (“The Plastic Polygon,” Plastique, no. 3, Spring 1938, p. 28) Indeed, Plastic Polygon’s perimeter evokes the Manhattan skyline through its stepped, vertical blocks, while the composition within seems to reduce the life, sound and movement of New York City into a dance of colorful geometries. The present work is likely the largest in a limited series of Plastic Polygon works, which includes examples in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey; and Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina. Emblematic of the inventive and forward-looking mind of one of America’s earliest and most influential abstractionists, the present painting is a towering masterwork of Shaw’s career.

One of Shaw's most radical innovations within Plastic Polygon is the custom cut panel on which it is painted, which would not make a prevalent resurgence in the wider narrative of art history until its use by post-War artists, such as Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly and Jasper Johns. Shaw explained of his inspiration behind the shaped panel support: “My intention in abandoning the orthodox four-stripped frame has been to give the figure wider freedom—a freedom especially required, I believe, because of the large number of straight lines used.” (“The Plastic Polygon,” p. 28) While to the artist the decision to shape the picture plane felt like a sensible, straightforward solution, as William C. Agee declares, "In Plastic Polygon, Shaw created one of the most original and far-reaching abstractions of the period, featuring what must be the first shaped canvas in American Art." (Modern Art in America: 1908-68, New York, 2016, p. 148)

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