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Henry Botkin (1896-1983) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and was a mid-century American Modernist who served as President of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors from 1957 to 1961. He was an illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, Harpers, and The Century Magazine.[1][2] Botkin was a cousin and close friend to composers, George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin.

Henry Botkin
Henry Albert Botkin

EducationMassachusetts College of Art, Art Students League of New York
Known forPainting, Collage
MovementAmerican Modernism
Patron(s)George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin



After training at the Massachusetts College of Art, Botkin moved to New York City. He took classes in drawing and illustration at the Art Students League of New York and worked as an illustrator for Harper’s, The Saturday Evening Post and Century magazines. In the late 1930s Botkin changed his approach to painting, moving from the School of Paris Modernism that he had adopted after he left Boston.[3] Botkin was known for painting the theater, still lifes, landscapes, and low-country blacks in a romantic manner that some criticized for lacking social realism. By the late 1940s he had turned to abstraction in oils and collage.[1] He grew an interest in collage in the early 1950s, which dominated his work until the 1960s.[2] He served as president of four major art organizations including: The Artists Equity Association, The American Abstract Artists, Group 256 Provincetown, and The Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors.[4] Botkin helped to organize the first exhibition of American abstract painting at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo Japan, in 1955. He also organized the sale of five hundred and forty paintings at the Whitney Museum of American Art 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.

Friendship with George GershwinEdit

Botkin was a cousin, close friend, and painting teacher to Gershwin. Gershwin collected many of Botkin's paintings, which people said corresponded in mood to Gershwin's music. Martha Severens wrote in her book, The Charleston Renaissance, "The interaction between the two cousins was a dynamic one, and Botkin created paintings that reflect Gershwin's music. Correspondences are found in subject and in style. Both had a genuine interest in African-American culture that preceded their visit to Folly Beach and the evolution of Porgy and Bess. . . .They talked art together and spent years of their lives together."[5] Botkin encouraged Gershwin to paint, and after Gershwin’s death, he arranged an exhibition of his cousin's work at Avery Fisher Hall.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Henry Botkin". Ask Art. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b Barilleaux, Rene (1982). Henry Botkin Paintings, Drawings, Collages. Lafayette Louisiana: School of Art and Architecture. University of Southwestern Louisiana. p. 2.
  3. ^ "Our Permanent Collection". Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  4. ^ "Art Fact". Lot 823 | Henry Botkin, Abstract, collage and oil. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  5. ^ Severens, Martha (1998). The Charleston Renaissance. South Carolina Department Of Natural Resource. p. 112. ISBN 0963283650.
  6. ^ "Childs Gallery". Botkin, Henry. Archived from the original on 9 July 2007. Retrieved 24 January 2013.

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