Rolph Scarlett (1889-1984): A Canadian-American Abstractionist

Rolph Scarlett - Composition with Blue Circle

Rolph Scarlett (1889-1984), "Composition with Blue Circle," ca. 1940s, gouache and ink on paper, 23 1/2 x 18 inches

Carol Lowrey

I first became acquainted with the paintings of Rolph Scarlett early in my career when employed at the University of Guelph Art Gallery (known today as the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre) in my home province of Ontario.  I was doing research in preparation for a collection catalogue and––amidst the landscapes by the Group of Seven and the portraits and academic figure pieces that graced the collection–– his non-objective work truly stood out.  Born in Guelph––about an hour’s drive southwest of Toronto––Scarlett studied art during his school days, but after completing his education he became an apprentice in his family’s jewelry firm.  He went to New York in 1909, attending classes at the Art Students League of New York while continuing his activity in the jewelry field until returning to his hometown in 1912.  In 1919, he trekked south of the border again, working as a jeweler, designer and painter in New York, Toledo and Southern California.  A trip to Europe in 1923 brought him into contact with the abstract styles of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, to which he was instantly drawn.  Read the rest of this post on the Spanierman Modern blog.


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