Born in New York City, Charles Shaw became a significant figure in the history of American abstract art. His work was noted for its clarity of form and architectural construction. In the later part of his life, he turned to Abstract Expressionism.
Shaw was described as a "wealthy man-about-town, poet and minor novelist" before he began to paint seriously when he was in his 30s. His parents died when he was young, and he was raised by an uncle.
He took a circuitous journey to life as an artist. From a wealthy New York family, he graduated from Yale in 1914 and completed a year of architectural studies at Columbia. In the 1920s he pursued journalism, writing articles on the city nightlife for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Smart Set. Then in 1927, he began drawing, taking class at the Art Students League with Thomas Hart Benton and Georges Luks of the Ash Can School, delving into the tradition of portraiture, still life and landscapes.
Shaw served in World War I, and in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he took a long trip to Europe, living in Paris and London, traveling to Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Florence, Rome, visiting museums, spending time with artists, reading about various genres of art, taking drawing classes, all while staying abreast of American trends. He met with fellow abstractionists Jean Hélion, Joan Miró and Le Corbusier in Paris, and with the artists Georges Braque, Constantin Brancusi, Wolfgang Paalen, Man Ray, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and John Ferren. This continuous and diverse exposure enriched Shaw's development as an artist and allowed him to become a special and original combination of American and European aesthetics.
Upon his return to the U.S. in 1933, Shaw began to depict abstracted versions of cityscapes, with the distinctly American imagery of the Manhattan skyscrapers appearing in his compositions in various degrees of abstraction. His immersion into the city and its resulting influence on his art was likely furthered as he undertook photography of New York and Brooklyn, used alongside his 1936 article on historical sites and becoming the book New York-Oddly Enough in 1938. Sharing similar artistic pursuits and ideals in American abstraction as well as friendship, Shaw, along with the artists George L. K. Morris, Suzy Frelinghuysen, and Albert Eugene Gallatin, became known as the "Park Avenue Cubists," a sophisticated group who pursued their own art and promoted the art of others.
As a key figure in early American abstraction, Charles Green Shaw was a unique amalgamation of a multifaceted life, education and career that resulted in a significant and beautiful body of art. Shaw holds the special recognition of being the only American born artist to be awarded two solo exhibitions during his lifetime at Solomon Guggenheim's Museum of Non-Objective Painting. He also was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group, established in 1936 in New York City to champion the understanding of abstract art. Shaw's works can be found in many public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian.
Julien Levy Gallery, New York, 1934
Solo, Valentine Gallery, New York, 1934
Gallery of Living Art, New York, 1935
Society of Independent Artists, 1935
"American Concretionists", Paul Reinhardt Galleries, New York, 1936
American Abstract Artists, 1937-1946
Jacques Seligmann & Co. Inc., New York, 1939
Art Institute of Chicago, 1943
Georgette Passedoit Gallery, 1941-1958
Carnegie Institute, 1945
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1945
Institute for Modern Art, Massachusetts, 1945
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1945-1963
Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York, 1945
Salon des Realites, Paris, 1949-1950
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1952
Passedoit Gallery, New York, 1954
Corcoran Gallery Biennial, Washington, DC, 1961
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1966
The Century Club, New York, 1967
Washburn Gallery, New York, 1975, 1979, 1982-1984, 1986
Richard York Gallery, New York, 1987
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, 1988
Washburn Gallery, New York, 1988-1992, 1997
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Akron Museum of Art, Ohio
Alan R. Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville, Kentucky
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
Atlanta University, Georgia
Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland
Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
Cantor Art Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California
Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California
The Dayton Art Institute, Ohio
Denver Art Museum, Colorado
Fort Worth Community Arts Center, Texas
Georgia Museum of Art, Athens
Grey Art Gallery, New York University
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia
McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Le Musée de l’Art Moderne, Paris, France
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Newark Museum, New Jersey
National Gallery of the Arts, Washington, D.C.
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona
Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence
Rockefeller University, New York
St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut
Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Wichita Art Museum, Kansas
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut