Marguerite Hohenberg & Medard Klein:
The Guggenheim Years
Marguerite Hohenberg and Medard Klein were two visionary early 20th Century abstractionists, each of whom were committed to Chicago as their adopted hometown even as they achieved success exhibiting in museums like the Guggenheim in New York City. Hohenberg arrived in Chicago as a young Austrian immigrant at the turn of the century, later attending the University of Chicago and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Klein moved from Appleton, Wisconsin in 1926 as a twenty-one-year-old determined to become an artist. However, both Hohenberg and Klein’s commitment to abstraction and its ideals extended far beyond their Chicago community.
In the 1940s, Hohenberg and Klein exhibited frequently at the new Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York City. Hohenberg showed there at least three times from 1941-1946, and Klein exhibited at the Museum between 1943-1950 on at least seven separate occasions. This experimental and exceedingly influential exhibition space aimed to bring abstract art to the attention of an American audience. As the initial director and curator Hilla Rebay wrote, these paintings were meant to “elevate into the cosmic beyond...They help one to forget earth and its troubles as most people do when they are looking up into the vastness of the star lit sky.” The Museum of Non-Objective Painting would later expand its collection, commission an innovative spiral-shaped building by Frank Lloyd Wright, and take on the name of its founder, becoming what is now known as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Hohenberg and Klein’s association with the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which also exhibited the work of European artists like Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy, Fernand Leger, Josef Albers, and Pablo Picasso, contributed to their continued artistic development and professional success during the 1940s and 1950s. Hohenberg would receive a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, and open her own gallery on Oak Street in Chicago. Klein began showing his work at major museums across the country, including the Brooklyn Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in addition to participating in influential exhibitions like “Abstract and Surrealist American Art” at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947.
While the Guggenheim Museum today exhibits a much wider spectrum of Modern and Contemporary art than in the 1940s, its origin as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting exerted a strong influence on the trajectory of American art. Hohenberg and Klein were dedicated contributors to these early exhibitions, committed to their simultaneous roles as Chicago artists and as champions of an evolving American abstract art.
1) Hilla Rebay's quotation is from "Non-Objectivity is the Realm of the Spirit," 1945, as cited in “The Museum of Non-Objective Painting: American Abstract Art,” (New York: Snyder Fine Art, 1996).
Marguerite HohenbergAmerican, 1883 - 1972Chronological #201, 1942Gouache on paper25 3/4 x 16 inches
Signed with monogram lower left; signed, titled and dated on reverse.#7742
Marguerite HohenbergAmerican, 1883 - 1972Chronological #110, 1936Gouache on paper18 x 12 inches
Signed with monogram upper left; titled and dated on reverse.#7740
Marguerite HohenbergAmerican, 1883 - 1972Chronological #145B, 1936Gouache on paper18 x 12 inches
Signed with monogram upper left; signed, titled and dated on reverse.#7741
Marguerite HohenbergAmerican, 1883 - 1972Chronological #182, 1941Gouache on paper17 x 17 1/2 inches
Signed with monogram upper left; signed, titled and dated on reverse.#7744
Medard KleinAmerican, 1905 - 2002Untitled (Black and White), 1942Gouache on paper20 x 25 inches
Signed and dated Klein ‘42 lower right.#7818
Medard KleinAmerican, 1905 - 2002Drawing #45, 1945Graphite on paper9 x 12 inches
Signed and dated Klein '45 lower left; titled on reverse.#2351