Henry Albert Botkin (1896-1983)

Henry Albert Botkin (1896-1983). Fishing Town, c.1940. Oil on panel measures 18 x 26 inches; 25 x 32 inches in a silver leaf platform frame. Signed lower left center. Titled verso. Excellent condition with no damage or restoration. While the precise location of the image is not identified, we can reasonably assume it is a small town on Cape Cod. Botkin spent a considerable amount of time working in Provincetown during this period of his career. The piece depicts subtle light effects in the sky reflecting onto the flat planes of beach structures. The palette is very subtle and precise: one gets the sense that Botkin’s choices weren’t arbitrary, as they can sometimes be in semi-abstract atmospheric landscapes.

Price on request


Henry Albert Botkin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 5th, 1896.  After his early training at the Massachusetts College of Art, he moved to New York City.  Botkin took classes in drawing and illustration at the Art Students League and worked as an illustrator for Harper’s, The Saturday Evening Post and Century magazines.Botkin remained in New York City for eight years and then in the early 1920s, he moved to Paris to devote himself exclusively to painting.  He held his first European exhibition in Paris at the Billiet Gallery in 1927.  In addition to working on his own painting, Botkin acted as agent purchasing works by outstanding artists for prominent collectors, including his cousin George Gershwin.

Botkin returned to New York in 1930 and married Rhoada Lehman and in 1934 joined Gershwin in Folly Island, South Carolina. Botkin and Gershwin worked simultaneously; Gershwin composing the opera, “Porgy and Bess” and Botkin painting scenes from the life of the American Negro in the South.  Botkin also encouraged his cousin to paint and after Gershwin’s death in 1937, he arranged an exhibition in New York City of Gershwin’s work at Avery Fisher Hall (which was formerly known as the Philharmonic Hall – it was remodeled in 1976).

In the late 1930s, Henry Botkin began to develop a new approach to his painting.  He moved away from the earlier impressionist influence and turned to abstraction.  Botkin took an active role in bringing abstract art into greater public awareness and served as president of four major art organizations including: The Artist’s Equity Association, The American Abstract Artist’s Group 256 in Provincetown, and the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors.  In 1955 Botkin arranged the first exhibition of American abstract art at the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Japan.  He also organized the sale of five hundred and forty paintings at the Whitney Museum in New York, 1959.  Botkin spoke on the radio, “The Voice of America,” television, lead panel discussions throughout the country, and lectured and taught privately in New York, California, and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Birth place: Boston, MA

Addresses: NYC/Provincetown, MA

Profession: Painter, writer

Studied: Mass Sch Art; ASL; E.R. Major; Bridgman; abroad.

Exhibited: S.Indp.A., 1928; Corcoran Gal, 1932-53; PAFA, 1941-42, 1946, 1949, 1951-54; CI; AIC; WMAA, 1937-51; GGE, 1939; WFNY, 1939; MMA; BMA; Denver A. Mus.; Walker Gal.; Stendahl Gal.; Carstairs Gal.; Phillips Gal., 1937 (solo); Harriman Gal. (solo); LACMA (solo); SFMA; Chicago AC, 1938 (solo); Audubon A., 1945 (prize); PMG; BMFA; Kansas City AI; Downtown Gal.; Riverside Mus, 1961 (solo), Syracuse Univ, 1971 (solo); Frank Rehn Gallery, 1972 (solo); Four awards incl Nat Inst Arts & Lett grant, 1965; Childs Gal., NYC, 1988 (solo); Salons of Am.

Member: Am. A. Cong.; AEA (pre, 1951); Group 256, Provincetown, MA (pres, 1955-1958); Am Abstr Artists (pres, 1954-1955); Fedn Mod Painters & Sculptors (pres, 1957-1961, 1968-1969); fel Int Assn Plastic Arts & Lett.

Work: MMA; MOMA; WMAA; PMG; Univ. Nebr.; BM; Newark Mus.; Univ. Okla.; Syracuse Univ. MFA

Comments: In the 1930s, Botkin was working as a realist painter of the American scene; by the late 1940s he had turned to abstraction in oils and collage. He was active in Provincetown, MA, 1950-on. Botkin helped to organize the first exhibition of American abstract painting at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan, in 1955. He also acted as an art advisor to his cousins Ira and George Gershwin, traveling to Paris to buy works for them and for their friends (including William Paley, Fanny Brice, and Billy Rose).