Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time to Clear the Table - Harold Krisel

Guest Writer - Elizabeth Jarrard
Article Three

Harold Krisel in his "studio".

Daughter Judy Krisel Langille remembers the household a bit differently than her mother. "Our entire apartment seemed to be his studio," says Judy, "and it was a spacious apartment,"

"But I do remember my mother calling out, 'Harold, time to clear the table' before dinner every night."

Linear - Black
Approximately 20" x 20"
Harold Krisel
Part of the Permanent Collection of The Spartanburg County Museum of Art, Spartanburg, SC

Now an artist living in New Jersey, Judy says she wasn't really into art until high school. "But my only toys were art related."

Harold built the girls doll houses and gave them art supplies to create the furnishings.

Middle sister Elizabeth Krisel, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and now the director of innovation for Fisher-Price, loved making clothes pin dolls and other toys.

The third sister Martha Krisel is a lawyer and lives on Long Island.

Even the girls' school assignments became art projects. "No plain shoe boxes for us," says Judy. "We had dioramas made from lovely foam core board."

A House in the Hamptons

Harold loved his summers off for painting and printmaking. The family began vacationing in the Hamptons in the mid-1960s and in 1974, built a vacation home in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

Krisel at the beach.

Harold and Rose retired from teaching and moved to the Bridgehampton house in 1981, where he pursued his dream of being a full-time artists. He became friends will other artists including Perle Fine and Ibram Lassaw. He began showing at the Elaine Benson Gallery. Locals remember him wearing a beret and driving around in an old Peugeot.

Harold's decline with Alzheimer's disease was such a sad time for his family. The man who always had ideas was losing his memory. After he died in 1995, Rose began clearing out the remote house for her next move to Great Neck, N.Y.

Untitled, 1965
28" x 28"
Oil on Canvas
Harold Krisel

Each of the children took favorites but their father left behind a huge store of work, some of it damaged by the dampness on the island.

Rose gave some pieces to the American Abstract Artists organization and donated the remaining to a local animal rescue fund. This is where coincidence created a wonderful opportunity.

Structured Form, 1964
Silkscreen - 24" x 19"
Harold Krisel
McCormick Gallery, Chicago, Il

Thomas McCormick and Vincent Vallarino agreed to help another widow — a friend whose husband had acquired some of the art donated to the animal charity — clear out her storage locker. This is how McCormick and Vallarino describe their discovery in the catalog they produced for a 2009 exhibition at the McCormick Gallery in Chicago:

"In July 2008 we were visiting in the Hamptons and Vincent made good on a promise to help an old friend sort through the artwork left behind by her deceased husband. Early on a Sunday morning — armed with hot cups of coffee — we met the widow at a self-storage facility in Southhampton. When she rolled up the overhead door to her ten by twenty foot storage unit we beheld a tsunami of sardine-packed artwork. Canvases, frames, tubes, boxes and stacks of loose paper were crammed together as if by a deranged pack rate. ... At some point a bit of wreckage was pushed aside revealing a tantalizing site in the rubble: a dusky stack of extremely handsome paintings of the geometric sort. We expected them to be products of the 1970s but on closer inspection found a date of 1948! We also found a name, crisply inscribed by the maker. "Krisel". ... How who the hell is that?"

The trove was rescued and restored and organized into a successful exhibition. And now more and more art lovers are discovering Harold Krisel.

Footnote from Terry:

Earlier this month I traveled to Spartanburg along with my sister and husband to visit The Spartanburg County Museum of Art to see some of the Krisel works in their collection. They had 7 of his pieces right in the front of the gallery and I was delighted to see that the work sparkled. The colors were sharp and clear and floated on the white of the paper. The work seemed as if they had just been printed and were full of life.

Seven silkscreens installed in The Spartanburg County Museum of Art.

A closer view of some of the work.

In addition to having work in Spartanburg, here is a list of other Permanent collections in which work is included: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the British Museum (London), the Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris), the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Trinity College (Dublin), the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Princeton University Library.

I want to thank Judy Langille for introducing me to her father and his beautiful art. My appreciation also to her mother Rose Krisel for speaking with my sister and sharing her memories and insights about her husband and his life as an artist. My appreciation also goes to The Spartanburg County Museum of Art for allowing me to take some photos and share them. Thank you to Scott Cunningham, Associate Director, for providing additional photographs of Krisel's work from the museum's collection. You can see more photographs here: Flickr Photostream.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of articles on Harold Krisel and...

On Oct. 24, will be offering a selection of original prints for sale from the Krisel Estate. If you are interested you can register to view this offering via this link:

Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7. I love hearing from you and Remember:

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  1. Thank you for this interesting post about an artist I had never heard of, but whose work I am beginning to love! I have just ordered the book, and am looking forward to seeing more of this amazing art.

  2. Thank you for this. I have been a fan of Judy's work for a long time. So interesting to hear about her father and his work.

  3. Thank you Gerrie. Hope you will tell your friends about this wonderful man's art. Best, Terry

    Thank you Gail. The book is a steal at only $10 I believe and I'm looking forward to seeing what is offered on

  4. I would like to recommend Rollo May's The Courage to Create. It's a book from the '70s but still very relevant. He's a psychiatrist and poet. An elegant and insightful writer.

    Thank you for the gift of sharing your thoughts and images of your work. And for the latest seires on Harold Krisel. What a wonderful thing it is to be able to learn more about art and art quilting from wherever you are!

    Posted on behalf of Dale Tomlinson

  5. Oh my! I have been a huge fan of Judy's work and to learn of her father's talented art career has been special. The book is an excellent bargain and as a lover of geometric art, I am in heaven. Thank you and the Krisel family.

  6. Thank you Jeannie. The catalog is one of the best I've seen and at a very modest costs. I'm so pleased you have enjoyed the article and Mr. Krisel's work.