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Knud Merrild

Theme/Style – Abstraction, Post-Surrealism

Media – Oils, murals, sculpture, assemblage, prints

Artistic Focus – Knud Merrild would spend his entire career fighting convention and seeking the new. Merrild’s work demonstrates an incessant mutation of color and form, offering what he termed “kinetic paintings” of the abstract. An artist whose work was dominated by the philosophy of change, among Merrild’s key contributions were his “flux” paintings. By spurting paint onto a fluid surface – a canvas which he would tilt and turn – Merrild allowed chance to take over, letting colors run together and apart as the paint moved, settled and dried.

Career Highlights –

• Knud Merrild was born in Odum, Jutland, Denmark in 1894 and, viewing Cubist art there for the first time at age 19, he vowed to become a modern artist.
• Expelled from his arts and crafts school in Copenhagen for refusing to conform to traditional expectations, he also withdrew a year later from Denmark’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, finding it equally stifling.
• After studying art in London, Merrild moved to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles in 1923, where he joined the small group of Modernists in Southern California who opposed the Traditionalist and American Scene idioms prevailing at the time.
• As one of the first Los Angeles area painters to produce abstract art, Merrild’s flux paintings pioneered the spontaneous abstract improvisation movement years before the arrival of Jackson Pollock, and he quickly gained recognition as the Western United States’ leading abstract artist.
• Among Merrild’s numerous one-man shows were those at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1937, the Modern Institute of Art in Beverly Hills in 1948, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (posthumously) in 1965.
• In 1952, Merrild suffered a heart attack and virtually ceased working. Unable to afford health care in the U.S., he returned to Denmark, and passed away in Copenhagen in 1954.