Theme/Style Modernism, Art Deco, figurative, illustration
Media Oil, gouache, watercolor, pen and ink, graphite, block prints
Artistic Focus Mac Harshberger primarily made his mark as an illustrator, in striking black-and-white renderings that speak of his close association with the Art Deco aesthetic movement in 1920s Paris. However, his rare works in oil and gouache stand on their own as handsome and complex revelations of a fully developed painterís skill and sensibility.
• Born Frank MacCoy Harshberger Jr. in Tacoma, Washington in 1900, “Mac” Harshberger was the son of a prominent attorney and was raised in a family that appreciated the arts.
• Mac and his sister Kay were part of Tacoma’s artistic community, and Harshberger went on to study at the University of Washington under Ambrose Patterson.
• In 1921 Harshberger moved to Paris, and studied at the Académie Ranson with Maurice Denis and François Quelvee.
• By the mid-1920s Harshberger had settled in New York, where he taught painting and design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for 27 years.
• Harshberger and his life partner, Holland Robinson, formed Robinson-Harshberger Productions, privately publishing a number of small-edition books containing Robinson’s musical compositions, rhymes by Kay Harshberger, and Mac’s illustrations.
• Harshberger’s art deco illustrations also accompanied other books of music and poetry, including a collection entitled Madrigal and Minstrelsy, containing Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems by Blake, Browning, Rossetti, Shelley, Yeats and others.
• Kay Harshberger had meanwhile become the Countess Katherine de Landry through a marriage to European royalty, and after her divorce she took up residence in San Francisco, where her brother Mac’s striking portrait of her hung in her apartment for 20 years.
• After Kay’s death in 1974, the art historian William W. Whitney became the beneficiary of her estate, which not only included her portrait by Harshberger but numerous other works by him.
• With Whitney’s encouragement, an exhibition of Mac Harshberger’s work was presented in 1986 at San Francisco’s California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Entitled “Mac Harshberger: Art Deco Américain,” the show and catalog were presented in association with the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts and traveled to the Honolulu Academy of Arts in Hawaii.
• In 1996 William Whitney published the monograph An Elegance of Line: The Graphic Art of Mac Harshberger in a signed and numbered edition including 20 plates.
• Harshberger’s work is in the collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and the Wolfsonian-Florida International University museum.
• Around 1950 Mac Harshberger moved to Weston, Connecticut where he lived for the remainder of his life. He passed away in Stamford, Connecticut in 1975.
Additional biographical material and full bibliographic
references are available upon request.
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