Miriam L. Smith
fine art and appraisal services since 1984

Untitled - William Brice

Artwork: William Brice | Untitled

24" x 18"
Painting, charcoal on paper
Price: $6,500

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American, 1921 - 2008

Born in New York City, William Brice became a West Coast abstract  painter. Speaking as a Californian, he made the distinction between the East and West Coast Abstract Expressionism: . . ."New York painting reflected the energy, the congestion, the twension of the city.  The paintings of the same period painted here---and I'm thinking in particular of earlier Diebenkorn paintings---were more expansive. " (Herkovic 50)

The son of comedian Fanny Brice and Jules "Nicky" Arnstein,  he was born April 23, 1921.  Brice and his sister, Frances were raised primarily by their mother in a household where playwright Clifford Odets, composers George and Ira Gershwin and other friends from the Broadway theater were guests. When he was 16, the family moved to Beverly Hills so his mother could pursue a career in radio.

William Brice studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and at the Art Students League in New York.  From 1948 to 1952, he taught at the Jepson Art Institute in Los Angeles and from 1953 to 1991 at the University of California in Los Angeles and became an emeritus professor in 1991.  A revered and influential teacher, had a number of students who became prominent Los Angeles artists, among them Charles Garabedian and Ed Moses.

His upbringing in the 1920s and '30s included tours of the great art museums of Europe
with his family and a private art tutor from age 13. He admired the work of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and others of their era, who were still active when Brice was young. At 14 he bought a work by Picasso, a gouache of a boy standing.

His work shows a development from realism to abstract art; in the late 1940s, Brice made figurative works, and  returned often to subjects in nature until a series
of flowers from the 1950s ended with paintings of nothing but petals bathed in atmospheric light.

In the mid-1950s, Brice moved to larger-scale works that "combined the exact delineation of forms" with a "diffusion of color and tone," according to a 1955 review in The Los Angeles Times.

Influenced by a trip to Greece around 1970, his later work  was filled with fragments of torsos, columns and ancient ruins.  A 1986 retrospective exhibit of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art solidified Brice's reputation for "a refined art . . . of
tasteful classic modernism.." (The Los Angeles Times art critic, William Wilson )

William Brice died March 3, 2008 at the UCLA Medical Center; he is survived by his wife Shirley Bardeen (married 1942) and  his son John, who lives in London; and two grandsons. He is also survived by a niece, Wendy Stark Morrissey of Los Angeles, an art patron and the daughter of his sister, the late Frances Stark and her late husband Ray Stark, movie producer and art collector.

Marika Herskovic, Editor, "American Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s, An Illustrated Survey"
Rourke, Mary, "William Brice, 86; artist, teacher known for grand scale abstracts", Obituary Los Angeles Times March 9, 2008
Information courtesy of Robert Hayden III

- Biography courtesy AskArt.com

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