Often called a romantic expressionist and American intimist, self-taught Pennsylvania artist Sterling Strauser (1907-1995) completed his first oil painting in 1922- inspired by frequent visits to the collection of American folk art at the Everhardt Museum in Scranton. Throughout the following seven decades of his career, Strauser’s artistic pursuit was based on his own intuition and determination to paint what he saw, rather than adhering to the conventional pictorial structures prescribed by prevailing styles at the time. Strauser rejected pretension, believing instead that art should work from life as it was lived. His oeuvre therefore serves as an extremely personal record of his observations and experiences from his lifetime painting in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
Beginning early in his career, Strauser took his inspiration from American regionalists and traditional realists in the Ashcan style, as well as European movements such as Fauvism and Cubism, yet he eventually developed his own fluid realism based on subject matter beloved and familiar to him- family and friends, local landscapes and floral still lifes.
Known for his distorted pictorial space, exaggerated with vivid color, heavy impasto and an intensity of emotion, Strauser was adept at altering and rearranging the details and aspects of any given form to create a new kind of beauty.
All a painting has to do, or a piece of sculpture, or whatever, is to entertain the critical eye. You have to have a fresh seeing eye… to look at things like a child, as if looking at the world for the first time (seeing) something that somebody else doesn’t see, something you want to identify with… Painting is largely a matter of evaluation. (It) doesn’t matter how much it looks like the subject matter. It just depends on how interesting you have made it so that it pleases the critical eye.
Sterling Strauser, Sterling Strauser: A Modernist Revisted, p. 23
Sterling exhibited his work extensively throughout the country and drew the attention of many notable fellow artists including Milton Avery, Louise Nevelson, David Burliuk, Chaim Gross and Red Grooms. Sterling was also extremely influential within the arts community of Pennsylvania through his discovery and promotion of self-taught American Folk artists such as Justin McCarthy, Jack Savitsky, Joseph Gatto and Charles Dieter.
Strauser and his wife Dorothy dedicated most of their lives to collecting and championing these folk artists, later referred to as the “Strauser Circle.” Freeman’s is honored to present the following 44 lots from his granddaughter’s collection, which contains outstanding examples of Strauser’s own art as well as a selection of work from his collection of outsider artists.
Said the artist's grandaughter: “While I think every child is born with an aesthetic, few have grandparents who cultivate it as a matter of course. I was lucky; mine always did. In fact, every light switch plate, door and faucet knob – even the Analomink house skeleton key – were covered with paint-smudged fingerprints. I most vividly recall aqua smeared with swirls of yellow ochre.
In fact it wasn’t something I was consciously aware of, even in my late teens when I left for Temple University with an extra trunk filled with the art that hung in my bedroom for nearly two decades. I had no idea that while I was leaving home, I was taking the 'Strauser Circle' with me.”