This work by John Ferren is an abstract composition in white tones

John Ferren

American, 1905–1970

Untitled No. 12, 1937

Engraved, carved, and hand-painted plaster

9 ¾ x 12 inches

Signed and dated lower right; signed, dated, and inscribed

“no. 12” on the reverse



Though he was known as an intellectual, Ferren avoided academe and formal art institutions, preferring to develop a style and theories that were nourished by his adventurous lifestyle and curious mind. His travels and studies in Europe exposed him to modern art movements such as Cubism, Surrealism, and Expressionism, and an early appreciation of Kandinsky and a fascination with Zen helped define his approach to art.

In Paris, he was introduced to Stanley William Hayter, whose theories on “the nature of space in a linear world” transformed Ferren’s style. Hayter introduced the artist to a 19th-century technique in which an etched and inked metal plate is imprinted in wet plaster. The plaster is then carved and painted, using the etched lines as a guide. These reliefs—of which the present works is a fine example—were among Ferren’s most successful works. Ferren returned to the United States in 1938 and established himself in New York’s art community by becoming a member (and later president) of the Club, an informal group of artists who represented the social and intellectual center of Abstract Expressionism in New York.

This work by John Ferren is an abstract composition in white tones