American artist Henry Albert Botkin (1896-1983) is equally known as a painter, a collage artist, and for his work as a proponent of abstract art—as well as for encouraging his cousin George Gershwin to paint. He trained at the Massachusetts School of Art and the Art Students League before moving to New York City, where he worked as an illustrator for publications such as Harper's, The Saturday Evening Post, and Century magazines.
In the early 1920s, Botkin moved to Paris to devote himself exclusively to painting and began exploring Impressionism - creating in early works what he called a "mood of enchantment." His first European exhibition was held in 1927 at the Billiet Gallery in Paris. In addition to working on his own painting, Botkin acted as an agent purchasing works by outstanding artists for prominent collectors, including his cousin George Gershwin.
Botkin returned to New York in 1930 and married Rhoda Lehman and in 1934 joined Gershwin in Folly Island, South Carolina. Botkin and Gershwin worked simultaneously; Gershwin composed the opera, "Porgy and Bess" and Botkin painted scenes from the life of the American Black in the South. Botkin also encouraged his cousin to paint and after Gershwin's death in 1937, he arranged an exhibition in New York City of Gershwin's work at Avery Fisher Hall (which was formerly known as the Philharmonic Hall - it was remodeled in 1976).
In the late 1930s, Henry Botkin began to develop a new approach to his painting. He moved away from the earlier impressionist influence and turned to abstraction. Botkin took an active role in bringing abstract art into greater public awareness and served as president of four major art organizations including The Artist's Equity Association, The American Abstract Artist's Group 256 in Provincetown, and the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors. In 1955 Botkin arranged the first exhibition of American abstract art at the Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Japan. He also organized the sale of five hundred and forty paintings at the Whitney Museum in New York, 1959. Botkin spoke on the radio, "The Voice of America," television, lead panel discussions throughout the country, and lectured and taught privately in New York, California, and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Botkin became interested in working with collage in the early 1950s and collage dominated his work from the 1960s until his death in 1983.