"To bring about a purer and closer interrelationship between form and space has been my problem since that time" (F. Glarner, as quoted in Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America 1927-1944, New York, 1983, p. 147).
Swiss-born and schooled in Paris, Fritz Glarner settled permanently in New York in 1936, where he would work and exhibit for the rest of his life. Almost immediately after arriving in America, Glarner affiliated himself with the American Abstract Artists group (AAA), showing with them in their annual exhibitions. Their shows included many important artists, including David Smith and Burgoyne Diller and it proved to be an invaluable source of knowledge and inspiration for the émigré artist. AAA in general and Glarner in particular were indebted to the De Stijl artists and Mondrian, with whom he spent time in Paris and New York. As the artist noted "He was my friend; he was my master" (F. Glarner, as quoted in Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America 1927-1944, New York, 1983, p. 148).
Study for Tondo #54 is from the eponymously titled series that he began in 1944 after the death of Mondrian. The Relational paintings, which he would experiment and develop for the rest of his career, completely eradicate any distinction between figure and ground, with each colored form given equal prominence. Study for Tondo #54 is typical of the series in which he creates a grid that fluctuates in the eye due to the shifts in color and most importantly, the fifteen degree tilt that is scattered throughout the painting. In contrast to Mondrian, whose classic grids were generally locked into place, Glarner's forms slip and shift, an effect given impetus by the tondo format which sets the entire painting in motion. The shaped canvas was yet another influence of De Stijl, which had been utilized by many AAA members, including the "Park Avenue Cubists" such as Charles G. Shaw.
Glarner showed at the Museum of Modern Art's seminal 1951 exhibition, Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America, organized by Andrew Carnduff Ritchie. Dorothy Miller included him in the 1956 exhibition 12 Americans.
Fritz Glarner photograph by Hans Namuth c 2003 Hans Namuth Estate/Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona