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George Josimovich

Born: 1894, Mitrovica, Srem, Yugoslavia
Died: 1987, Newark, New Jersey, United States of America

Illinois Central

Oil on canvas
Image: 41 x 46 1/2in. (104.1 x 118.1cm)
Frame: 42 3/8 × 47 7/8 × 3 1/4in. (107.6 × 121.6 × 8.3cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2004.1
Signed: Lower right
Artist Name: []


George Josimovich’s Illinois Central evokes the idea of the railroad through an assemblage of flat geometric shapes resembling tracks, signals, trestles, overhead cables, and equipment housings. Their arrangement satisfies abstract compositional principles of contrast and balance while it defies utilitarian logic: tracks and power lines, for example, indicate two, competing perspective points, and what appear to be round signal lights are oddly colored. Thus distorted, all the familiar features of the railway landscape are present except the train itself: its presence is marked only by the incongruously detached billows of steam represented at the upper left by stylized, sensuously curved and shaded forms that also resemble female breasts or buttocks.

The geometric purity of Josimovich’s forms and his use of the railroad, the quintessential symbol of modernity, as inspiration link the artist to the contemporary artistic movement known as purism. The movement’s center was Paris, where Josimovich painted this work. The acknowledged art capital of the Western world, Paris in the 1920s attracted numerous American artists eager to absorb the latest ideas and trends. Josimovich was one of a number of Americans who experimented with different kinds of abstraction, the reduction of forms to their essential planes, angles, curves, and other components. The Terra Foundation includes other examples of such experimentation that indicate the varied richness of American modernism of the 1920s, notably Super Table (TF 1999.37) by Stuart Davis and Charles Sheeler’s Flower Forms (TF 1987.33).

Josimovich’s year-long stay in Paris was a productive one that ended with a solo exhibition and generous press coverage. While he clearly found the city a sympathetic environment for the development of his art, Illinois Central asserts his American identity in its specific title and bespeaks his personal affiliation with his adopted home state. Founded in the 1850s, the Illinois Central Railroad was a major artery in the circular transportation network that, by linking Chicago with Atlantic and Gulf ports, had in the nineteenth century made the city a national economic engine to rival New York. The railroad also owned the suburban tracks along which Josimovich himself surely had ridden as he traveled between his studio in Hyde Park, on Chicago’s South Side, and the “Loop,” the city’s business and cultural center. It was there, for example, that he first exhibited this work, at the 1928 Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists annual exhibition. Illinois Central thus synthesizes Josimovich’s transatlantic influences and local identity.

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The artist
Estate of the artist
Sid Deutsch Gallery, New York, New York, c. 1990
Dr. Peter B. Fischer
The Dr. Peter B. Fischer Trust
Robert Henry Adams Fine Art, Inc., Chicago, Illinois
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 2004

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Exhibition History

Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists, 7th Annual Exhibition, Chicago, Illinois, November 25–December 10, 1928, no. 180 (as I.C.). [exh. cat.]

Defining the Edge: Early American Abstraction, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California, January 10–March 15, 1998; Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, New York, March 26–May 30, 1998. [exh. cat.]

Chicago Modern, 1893–1945: Pursuit of the New, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, July 17–October 31, 2004. [exh. cat.]

Art in Chicago: Resisting Regionalism, Transforming Modernism, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (organizer). Venue: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, February 4–April 2, 2006. [exh. cat.]

Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois, in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, and Pinacoteca de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (organizers). Venues: Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, June 20–September 7, 2015; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, November 6, 2015–January 18, 2016, "Paisagem nas Américas: Pinturas da Terra do Fogo ao Ártico," Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, February 27–May 29, 2016. (exhibited in São Paulo, Brazil only) [exh. cat.] America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper, Terra Foundation for American Art and the Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Oxford, UK (organizers.) Venue: Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Oxford, UK, March 23, 2018–July 22, 2018 [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Seventh Annual Exhibition of the Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists. (exh. cat. Chicago Society of Artists). Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Society of Artists, 1928. Text p. 11, cat. no. 180 (checklist, as I.C.).

Defining the Edge: Early American Abstraction. (exh. cat., Laguna Art Museum, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery), New York, NY: Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 1998. Text pp. 32, 54 (checklist); ill. p. 32 (color).

George Josimovich: American Purist. Chicago, Illinois: Robert Adams Fine Art, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, 2004. Ill. (color).

Camper, Fred. “Hot and Cold Visions.” Chicago Reader (June 3rd, 2004). Accessed January 25, 2017. http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/hot-and-cold-visions/Content?oid=915701. Text.

Illinois Central, George Josimovich. Brochure for International Conference for Narratives About American Art. John F. Kennedy Institute for American Studies, Berlin, and Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, IL, May 24–26, 2007. Ill. cover (color).

Cozzolino, Robert. Art in Chicago: Resisting Regionalism, Transforming Modernism. (exh. cat., Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 2007. Text p. 17; ill. p. 25 (color detail); pl. 7, p. 29 (color).

Cypriano, Fabio. “Paisagem nas Américas trata encanto pela natureza sem simplificação.” Folha de São Paulo (March 27, 2016): illustrada C3. Text.

Eleutério, Maria de Lourdes. “Paisagem nas Américas.” Remate de Males 36, no. 1 (January–June 2016): 301-309. Text p. 307.

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