Charles Green Shaw
American artist (1892-1974)



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Charles Green Shaw
American artist (1892-1974)
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Date of Birth

May 01, 1892

Place of Birth

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

Date of Death

April 02, 1974

Place of Death

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

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Works by Charles Green Shaw

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Charles Green Shaw was on the cutting edge of abstraction in the United States. 

Hailing from a wealthy New York family, Shaw had the comfort and ability to pursue a career in art. His mother died when he was three, so Shaw grew up with his father, uncle, and grandmother, and educated himself by reading the family’s wide collection of books. This early foray into education foreshadowed the interesting life he would lead. He studied architecture for a year before enlisting to fight in World War I. After dabbling in writing and contributing articles to The New Yorker, he eventually found his calling in painting after studying with Thomas Hart Benton, famed mentor of Jackson Pollock.

Despite only having a few months of formal training, Shaw had many opportunities that helped evolve his career. In 1927, Shaw enrolled in Benton’s class at the Art Students League in New York. On a trip to Paris, he visited the studios of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Fernand Leger, and learned about the European avant-garde’s experiments with abstraction. Shaw’s 1933 series Plastic Polygon firmly asserted his status as one of the first American artists to embrace abstract art. His previous experience as a writer allowed him to write eloquently about his abstract art practice in a way not many could emulate.

Shaw was one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists. The AAA, as it was also known, was the precursor to the Abstract Expressionist movement. It was also the American answer to the abstract trends dominating the European artistic consciousness. Shaw’s abstract and non-objective works definitely hit the spot. Shaw wasn’t just a stringent abstractionist; he dabbled in Surrealism and also made montages - small three-dimensional found object works, similar to that of Joseph Cornell.

Shaw’s talents never went unnoticed, and he enjoyed a successful artistic career. He was the only American-born artist to have two solo exhibitions during his lifetime at Solomon Guggenheim’s Museum of Non-Objective Painting, the first and way less catchy name of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.




  1. American Abstract Artists. “History at a Glance.” Accessed 24 March 2020.
  2. Artsy. “Charles Green Shaw.” Artists. Accessed 24 March 2020.
  3. HarperCollins Publishers. “It Looked Like Spilt Milk.” Products. Accessed 24 March 2020.
  4. Cummings, Paul. “Oral History Interview with Charles Green Shaw, 1968 April 15.” Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. Accessed 24 March 2
  5. Smithsonian Institution. “Charles Shaw.” Artists. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Accessed 24 March 2020.
  6. Weinstein Gallery. “Charles Green Shaw.” Artists. Accessed 24 March 2020.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Charles Green Shaw

Charles Green Shaw (1 May 1892 – 2 April 1974) was an American painter and writer.

A significant figure in American abstract art, Shaw enjoyed a varied career as a writer and illustrator, poet, modernist painter, and collector. Born to a wealthy family and orphaned at a young age, Charles and his twin brother were raised by their uncle, Frank D. Shaw. At age nine, he was already an avid painter and had illustrated his first book, The Costumes of Nations. He also wrote and illustrated the children's book, It Looked Like Spilt Milk, published in 1947. Shaw graduated from Yale in 1914, where he contributed artwork to campus humor magazine The Yale Record. At Yale, he was also a member of the St. Anthony Hall aka Delta Psi fraternity [1], and completed a year of architectural studies at Columbia University. He worked as a freelance writer for The New Yorker, The Smart Set, and Vanity Fair, where his focus was the 1920s theater and café society. In 1927, Shaw enrolled in Thomas Hart Benton's class at the Art Students League of New York. He also studied privately with George Luks. Shaw’s work is part of most major collections of American Art, including the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian Institution, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Corcoran Gallery.

As a founding member of the American Abstract Artists Shaw participated in the first annual exhibition. His article, A Word to the Objector, was included in the group's first publication.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Charles Green Shaw.