Rolph Scarlett 1889–1984
Rolph Scarlett was one of the founding artists of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1939 (originally called The Museum of Non-Objective Painting) and, despite falling into obscurity in the 1950s after the museum broadened its scope and he re-located to Woodstock, NY, he continued to paint and design jewelry until his death in 1984. Over the course of his seventy-five-year career Scarlett explored many art movements, but was always interested in the energy and rhythm of pure aesthetic and the expressionist urges behind them.
Scarlett was born in Guelph, Canada in 1889 and was apprenticed to his uncle’s jewelry firm when he was just fourteen. He also began painting, drawing and designing theatrical sets at a young age. While on a business trip to Switzerland in 1923, he met artist Paul Klee, who greatly informed his transition into abstract and non-objective modes. In the early 1930s, Scarlett settled in New York City and became involved in the founding of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, with many of his works forming the basis of the collections, as well as serving as a lecturer and curator. When Guggenheim died in 1949, the museum shifted its focus, leaving Scarlett out of its new vision. Living and working in Woodstock, NY for the rest of his life, Scarlett's work has gone through a recent re-appraisal of its importance in early and mid-century abstract movements. His work is held in collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the de Young Museum, San Francisco and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.