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James McCray
(1912 - 1993)

d. 1947

Egg tempera on canvas
laid down on wood panel
Artwork: 14¾" x 19¼"
Framed: 22¾" x 27¼"
Signed McCray and dated 47

M.H. de Young Museum,
Art Dept. U.C.

Additional Paintings
"Stretta" d. 1946

James McCray - Painter 1912 -1993

EDUCATION: University of California Berkeley, B.A. 1934; M.A. 1935; U. C.  Berkeley, 1936.  


Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA. James McCray, who received a Barnes Foundation grant in 1937 until midyear 1939, spent considerable time in Paris studying the French modernist masters.  He was greatly influenced by the art of Mondrian, Henri Matisse, and Robert and Sonia Delaunay. After retiring, McCray painted every day, creating a series of modernist, semi-figurative, and bold, robust, colorful Matisse-influenced paintings of the Northern California landscape.


In 1941 McCray was appointed to the California School of Fine Arts faculty to introduce a new spirit of Modernism into its conservative program. McCray arranged the appointment of Douglas MacAgy, a colleague of his at the Barnes Foundation and a curator at the San Francisco Museum, to the Board of Directors of CSFA, who became Director of CSFA in 1946. MacAgy then replaced the faculty at CSFA with artists Clyfford Still, Hassel Smith, Clay Spohn, Edward Corbett, David Park, and Richard Diebenkorn, who not only experimented with radical ideas but encouraged their students to do the same.


James McCray left CSFA in 1946 and was invited to join the U. C.  Berkeley Art Department, where he remained until becoming professor emeritus in 1982.  McCray continued painting until his passing in 1993.


EXHIBITIONS Oakland Art Gallery, 1935; 

Golden Gate International Exposition, 1940;


San Francisco Art Association Annual Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1937 -57th, 1940 - 60th, 1942 - 62nd, 1945 - 65th - awarded Anne Bremer Memorial Prize for abstract painting titled 'Reticulation.' Alfred Frankenstein, the noted art critic, wrote of this work, "McCray has produced the most original and interesting new development in painting that has manifested itself on this coast in my time., 

1949 - 68th, 1950 - 69th, 1955 - 74th, 1956 - 75th, 1957 - 76th, 1959 - 78th, 1960 - 79th, 1961 - 80th; 


Art Institute of Chicago, 1948, Fifty-Eighth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Abstract and Surreal American Art; 


Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; 

Whitney Museum of Art, New York; 

Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington DC 

California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, Third - Fifth Winter Invitationals, 1962, 1963, 1964; 

Salon de Realite, Paris; 

Institute of Creative Arts Grant, 1965 - 66. 


EVOLUTION OF STYLE McCray's education encompasses both European and American modernist movements.  While at the Barnes Foundation, his strongest influence was the geometric abstraction of Mondrian.  By 1945, McCray's geometric abstraction won the coveted Anne Bremer prize, and another was exhibited in the Abstract & Surrealist American Art exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1948.  


In 1950 McCray turned away from geometry and followed a path toward color field minimalist abstraction.  McCray evolved into colorful, gestural paintings by the mid to late 1950s. In the early 1960s and again in the 1980s, his energy flowed into a series of circular colorful hard-edge geometric abstractions influenced by the Rythme series of Sonia and Robert Delaunay he had seen while studying aesthetics in Europe during 1938-39 on his Barnes Foundation grant.

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