George Zachary Constant, Greek/American (1892 - 1978)
A continuous evolution of man’s relation to nature and the universe can be traced in the work of George Constant (1892-1972). This approach to his art repeatedly confronted him with new challenges -- challenges he met with new aesthetic inventions.. Throughout his evolving study of man, nature and the universe, he used each of his themes and techniques in all the media in which he worked and this same development can be traced in his oils as well as his drypoints and watercolors. He had a gift for creating fresh, sophisticated and witty watercolors such as those in the current exhibition.
Born in a mountain village in Greece in 1892, Constant’s parents died when he was four and he was raised by two uncles, one of whom was the head of the Monastery of Eleusa (where he spent his summers). Fascinated by the icons which surrounded him he began to study them and as he grew into manhood he expanded his studies of Archaic and Classical Greek Art. He began to draw and by the time he was 18 had some sense of himself as an artist. Like many artists with an instinct for exile and in need for a brash and lusty society, he emigrated to America.
In 1924, and just two years after he arrived in New York, Constant was invited to join the Valentine Gallery. A few years later he became part of the New Art Circle of J.B. Neumann (who reproduced the artist’s work in his magazine and was also responsible for having it exhibited in Germany). During the Depression, Constant executed many works in all media for the Federal Art Project.
In 1940 Constant founded the Society of Modern Painters and Sculptors, serving as the group’s President. He was one of several Greek artists who formed the "Koumbaroi" group, who painted in the Shinnecock Hills of eastern Long Island during the 1940s and 1950s. He received the Purchase Prize from the Library of Congress in 1947 and was awarded the highest honor for achievement that the Greek government can bestow, the Phoenix Cross. Today his work can be found in numerous public institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Philadelphia Museum and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. A book devoted to his work, "George Constant," was published in 1961.