Object of the Week: Ridge by Frank Goodnow

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Frank Goodnow (1923-2004) was born in Evanston, Illinois, and first studied art in Chicago at the now-closed Frederic Mizen Academy of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. His education was interrupted by America’s entry into World War II, and in 1942, Goodnow enlisted in the military, where he served for four years in the United States Army Medical Corps. When the war ended, Goodnow resumed his studies, first enrolling in Northwestern University and then again at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1948. Upon graduation, Goodnow received a fellowship allowing him to study abroad. He married Helen Domsella, a fellow graduate of the Art Institute, and the couple set off for Europe. They primarily lived in Paris and the south of France, but visited Belgium, Holland, and Italy over the course of their two years of travel. Goodnow capitalized on his time abroad, studying at the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris, one of France’s oldest and most influential art schools. He also showed his paintings in several French exhibitions. Goodnow returned to the United States in 1950 and began teaching at Syracuse University in the School of Art, a position he held for the next thirty-eight years. Along with teaching, Goodnow also continued to paint and exhibit his work, striking a balance between his work as an influential teacher to many generations of students and as a successful artist. Over the course of his career, Goodnow established himself as a Color Field painter, embracing the style that emerged from Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s. Color Field paintings featured compositions entirely composed of flat fields of color carefully chosen by the artist for their saturation and tone. Goodnow had an extensive history of showing his work at the Everson. He first exhibited at the Museum in the 25th Annual Exhibition of the Associated Artists of Syracuse in 1951, not long after arriving in the city. He participated in several more group exhibitions in the 1950s, and in 1960, Goodnow was one of two artists awarded a solo exhibition due to their outstanding work included in the Eighth Syracuse Regional Art Exhibition. Throughout the next two decades, Goodnow continued to participate in group exhibitions, and he had more solo shows at the Everson, one in 1967 (Frank Goodnow: One-Man Show, from which the Museum purchased Ridge) and another in 1974. For his paintings, Goodnow found inspiration in the world around him, translating everything he saw and heard into colorful compositions. He painted each canvas with care and deliberation, working to create a balanced arrangement of color. An article published in the Syracuse Herald Journal in 1955 quotes Goodnow as saying “I like my work to be thought of as visual poetry.” Ridge achieves this goal, invoking a harmonious landscape through Goodnow’s use and placement of bright, bold colors. Ridge is s currently on display in A Legacy of Firsts: The Everson Collects, an exhibition that examines over one hundred years of the Museum’s collecting priorities, from the Museum’s earliest acquisitions in 1911 to work acquired in 2019.

-Steffi Chappell, Assistant Curator

Sources:1. “Art,” Syracuse Herald Journal, November 27, 19552. Biography in Frank Goodnow Papers finding aid, University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries, https://library.syr.edu/digital/guides_sua/html/sua_goodnow_f.htm3. Exhibition brochure, Frank Goodnow: Recent Paintings and Prints, October 1 – 23, 1960, Everson Museum of Art

Frank Goodnow, Ridge, ca. 1967, acrylic and oil on canvas, 50 x 48 inches, Everson Museum of Art; Museum purchase, 68.30