ILLINOIS HISTORICAL ART PROJECT
MURVIN WILLIS GILBERT
MURVIN WILLIS GILBERT was born in Beaconsfield, Iowa, on August 25, 1897, and studied art at the University of Nebraska. He is a member of the Chicago Society of Artists and the Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists. He has exhibited in various Chicago galleries and has had a one-man show at Increase Robinson's Studio Gallery. His work has been written about in the Chicago Evening Post and The Arts by J. Z. Jacobson.
Art is supposed to be an expression of the age in which we live. I have read this much and often, heard it much and often. In the 13th and 14th centuries we had an art almost entirely dedicated to religion, because religion was at that time dominant. It was also a day of new learnings; perspective and anatomy were being used for the first time scientifically. Today we find ourselves in a great age of science, of new expressions, of volcanic eruptions in our social system and our political life. Do we find the artist concerned with these phenomena? I think not. With the first two, yes; with the other, no. If he is at all conscious of the social and political upheaval and expresses it in his work he is immediately classed as a propagandist and therefore unworthy of the calling of an artist for art's sake. What do we find the artist concerned with today? He will very seriously say that he is expressing himself and life. Self-expression is certainly the order of the day. But what he really expresses is aloofness ; he is above the struggles of the day. He is busy painting abstractions, bananas, landscapes and nudes. He believes that by painting according to the latest technical development; that by adopting the theories that have made Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Grosz, the Surrealistes and a hundred others famous, he will himself come to fame and glory. To achieve fame and glory, artists of today sacrifice nothing; they become snobs, hobnob with celebrities, seek the patronage of the rich, send pictures to the "best" galleries and telephone newspapers stories about themselves. Male artists marry prostitutes, female artists prostitute themselves. By these means they forge the endless chain of self-seeking glory, self-expression and "individualism." It is significant that the expressions of most of the artists of today bear no relationship to the unrest precipitated by our economic distress. You may go to show after show and you will find the same pictures of nudes and still life, ad nauseam. The artist may be concerned with life, but what kind of life? Why isn't he out on the streets participating in life and freeing himself of the ideology of the leisure class, the parasitic bourgeoise? The future of art in America, and Chicago, lies with those artists who recognize their position in the life of the time and the people. America has a big future ahead. It is up to the artists to show that they are facing forward. Murvin Willis Gilbert.