John McLaughlin 1898–1976
The self-taught, hard-edge painting pioneer John McLaughlin is considered one of the most significant and compelling postwar artists of his time. Born in Sharon, Massachusetts in 1898, McLaughlin served in the Navy during World War I and married Florence Emerson (the grandniece of Ralph Waldo Emerson) in 1928. The couple moved to Japan in 1935 where McLaughlin studied Japanese language and art and upon their return to Boston, opened The Tokaido, Inc., an art gallery specializing in Asian objects and Japanese prints. The outbreak of World War II brought McLaughlin back to Japan once again where he worked as a translator until his service ended in 1946 and the artist settled in Dana Point, California to begin painting fulltime. Inspired by the work of Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian, he drew upon his time overseas to create precise, geometric compositions devoid of representation. Citing 16th-century Japanese painters and Zen Buddhism, McLaughlin sought to provoke introspection in his work and create a meditative state for contemplation. In 1952, the artist stopped using curves altogether, and precise, rectilinear forms dominated his paintings. The same year, the artist had his first solo exhibition at the Felix Landau Gallery in Los Angeles and later showed with André Emmerich in New York and Zurich. In 1959, his work was included in the seminal exhibition Four Abstract Classicists at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where the term “hard-edge” painting was coined. McLaughlin died in 1976, and in 2016, he was the subject of a long-overdue retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art solidifying him as one of the most important American painters of the 20th century. Today, his work is held in many prominent collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo.