The Foundation for the Reading Public Museum has announced the opening of a new exhibition, William Baziotes: Mid-Century Modern, which features recent gifts from The Ethel Baziotes Trust and Estate of William Baziotes in New York.
The exhibition will be on view from May 14 through September 25, 2022 on The Museum’s first floor. The display will include more than sixty works—sketchbooks, drawings, watercolors and gouaches, oil paintings on canvas and board, and archival material representing the full scope of the local artist’s career from the early 1930s through the early 1960s.
Works from Baziotes’s early WPA (Works Progress Administration) period in the 1930; his early Surrealist period; his geometric/Cubist period of the mid-1940s; and his lyrical mature style developed in the 1950s and 60s, will be explored in the show.
William Baziotes (American, 1912 – 1963) was born in 1912 Pittsburgh to Greek immigrant parents. The Baziotes family moved to Reading the following year to pursue business opportunities, which included a partnership with the Mantis Family at the iconic Crystal Restaurant located on the 500 block of Penn Street.
The Baziotes family occupied a grand home across from City Park, but after a devastating fire at the restaurant in 1919, had to move to a two-room apartment near the train station. Eventually the fortunes of the family bounced back as they opened a successful bakery in 1921.
The artist spent his formative years in Reading, where he contributed drawings and sketches to the school yearbook and for The Magnet, Reading High’s newspaper. Later, he worked for a time for the Reading Times as an office boy for the advertising department, and for the J.M. Kase & Company, a maker of stained glass in Reading, where he worked “antiquing” stained glass with a group of artists. He took some of his earliest art lessons from Earl Poole, The Reading Public Museum’s second director.
The exhibition, sponsored by The Kraras Family, also includes a group of plein air Pennsylvania landscapes, works that were likely painted during his many summer-long residences in Reading, where he maintained an apartment and was able to reconnect with friends and family.
A large number of his colorful and sometimes violent Surrealist gouache and watercolors on paper from circa 1934-1936 are featured in the exhibition as well. A reception to honor the donation to the Reading Public Museum Collection will take place in the galleries on Thursday, June 23. More information can be found on the museum website.
Curator of Art, Scott A. Schweigert noted that, “The Reading Public Museum is thrilled to be able to present the many facets of William Baziotes’s thirty-year-long career in the city that was so instrumental to his artistic formation and development. The Reading artist really made his mark in the world of mid-century American abstraction at a key moment during its emergence as the vanguard style of art in the world and we are thrilled to be able to tell that story here at RPM.”
The Reading Public Museum is supported in part by grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and is located at 500 Museum Road, Reading, Pennsylvania.