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The Pursuit of Abstraction


Tipografia Vincenzo Bona, Turin. The Portal of Initiation, n.d. Letterpress. 19 5/8 x 14 1/4 inches. The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida. The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection. XX1990.3583.

Dorothy Brett (American, b. Great Britain, 1883–1977). The Stokowski Symphony, 1934. Oil on canvas. 36 1/4 x 18 3/8 inches. The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida. The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection. TD1989.37.2. © Dorothy Brett.

Agnes Pelton (American, b. Germany, 1881–1961). Radiance, c. 1929. Oil on canvas. 20 3/4 x 23 inches. Jeri L. Wolfson Collection. © Agnes Pelton.

Georgia Engelhard (American, 1906–1986). Untitled, 1926–1938. Oil on board. 37 x 30 1/2 inches. Jeri L. Wolfson Collection. © Georgia Engelhard.

A previous exhibition
at The Baker Museum

May 13 – July 23, 2017


The first half of the 20th century was a time of spiritual crisis. Scientific reasoning pervaded all areas of human understanding, supplanting religious and mythological beliefs with the promise of objective knowledge. As such beliefs eroded under the pressure of secular outlooks, many artists and designers experimented with new forms of expression that might reintroduce mystery into everyday life.

Drawing on a wide variety of sources — philosophy, mythology, religious doctrines and esoteric schools of thought — participants in this spiritual counterculture rejected materialism in favor of insight gained through abstract thought and feeling. Behind the veil of matter, their works assert, lie secrets that only metaphysical perspectives could disclose. Drawing on the holdings of The Wolfsonian–FIU, the Jeri L. Wolfson Collection and the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts Promised Gift, The Pursuit of Abstraction presents works of fine and decorative art that seek to reintroduce mystery to the world by way of aesthetic experience.

The Pursuit of Abstraction is organized by The Wolfsonian– Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida. We extend our gratitude to Jeri L. Wolfson and Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. for their generous loans to the exhibition and wish to recognize their important contributions to the reconsideration of the often-marginalized art and artists on view.

This exhibition is generously underwritten by Bob and Terry Edwards.


Associated Events

  The Pursuit of Abstraction
    May 17, 2017 • 10am


Wenzel Hablik (Czech, 1881–1934). “Das Weib—die Erde—in die der Same fällt” (The Woman—the Earth—into Which the Seed Falls), from Schaffende Kräfte (Creative Forces), second edition, 1942. Etching. 19 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches. The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida. The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection. 83.2.2256_04b.

Sexto Canegallo (Italian, 1892–1966). Energia sociale (Social Energy), 1920. Oil on canvas. 55 3/4 x 87 1/4 inches. The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida. The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection XX1989.127. © Sexto Canegallo

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