Fritz Bultman

Fritz Bultman (1919-1985) was an Abstract Expressionist and central member of the New York School known for his meticulously organized abstract compositions, use of sculpture, and the adoption of collage as a core practice. Best known for his collages that incorporated pre-painted paper into semi-figurative forms and abstract compositions, Bultman drew on years of psychotherapy to explore eroticism, sexual symbolism, and myth. Robert Motherwell called him “one of the most splendid, radiant, and inspired painters of my generation." A New Orleans native, Bultman studied with Morris Graves and then moved to Munich for two years studying with Hans Hoffman.  He eventually helped Hoffman and his wife Maria flee Germany before the Nazis rise to power.

By the late 1940s, Bultman was showing his work with others identified as Abstract Expressionists. In 1949, the New York Times praised the paintings as possessing a "remarkable power of organization" that created a "welcome clarity" in his densely arranged compositions. In 1950, he was among the group dubbed the "Irascibles" after protesting the Metropolitan Museum of Art's conservative exhibition program, confirming his place in the avant-garde. He did not appear in Nina Leen's famous photograph of the group published in "Life" magazine on January 15, 1951, because he was living abroad. A grant-funded period in Italy in 1951 allowed him to learn sculpture, and his bronzes from the 1950s and 60s suggest both monumentality and organicism. He would incorporate sculpture into his work for the rest of his career.

After his return from Italy, the early 1950s were marked by a retreat from the art world while he pursued Freudian therapy; the years after intensive analysis were marked by heightened activity and frequent exhibitions. He showed with the Stable Gallery, Martha Jackson, and Gallery Mayer in the late 1950s.

In the 1960s, he began exploring collage in earnest, employing both found and painted papers. The medium would become central to his work. Well established by the 1960s, Bultman received awards and grants from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Guggenheim Foundation, and he studied in Paris on a Fulbright fellowship. He taught at numerous institutions around the country, including Pratt Institute, Hunter College, and Tulane University. He created and exhibited his work regularly until his death in 1985.

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