(Posted October 23, 2012)

Minna Citron's early work, like "Beauty Culture?" set the stage for her transition to abstract images later in her career.
Minna Citron's early work, like "Beauty Culture?" set the stage for her transition to abstract images later in her career.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- As a little-known pioneer of social realism and printmaking who anticipated many of the abstract and experimental movements of modern art, Minna Citron will be featured in a groundbreaking exhibition at the Juniata College Museum of Art from Sept. 20 through Nov. 3.

The art for "Minna Citron: The Uncharted Course from Realism to Abstraction" is on loan from the artist's granddaughter Christiane H. Citron and after its debut at Juniata the exhibit will travel to art museums in Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Minnesota. The museum will hold a reception for the exhibition at 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20 at the museum.

Minna Citron's career shadowed the development of modern art as she started as a social realist painter in the 1930s and almost immediately began experimenting with new techniques and styles from what Citron called "a feminist perspective."

The show includes a wide range of Citron works including paintings, prints, drawings and mixed media constructions.

The show, which was researched and curated by Jennifer Streb, associate professor of art at Juniata, also has an accompanying book by Streb, "Minna Citron," on sale at the museum and the Juniata Bookstore for $14.

Citron had a long and distinguished career as an artist that garnered exhibitions in New York, Paris, London and Havana during her lifetime, and her art has long been included in the permanent collections of such museums as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The exhibition at Juniata's museum will feature art from every period of Citron's artistic development, including such representational works as "Beauty Culture?" and "Men Seldom Make Passes�?� ." Her abstract works include "Devil's Dance (Provincetown)," "Seated Figure" and "Signature of Winter." Her three-dimensional artworks will include "Square-based Umbo."

Citron's art and indeed Citron herself, remains little known today while some of her male contemporaries, such as Jackson Pollock and Reginald Marsh, are more celebrated.

Streb, in her exhibition essays, points out that Citron's groundbreaking artistic temperament may be responsible for the lack of recognition over a long career. Streb cites "her steadfast refusal to be pigeonholed into just one artistic category; her experimentation with and innovation of various artistic styles; and her status as an avowed feminist artist, well before such a role was accepted within either the art world or the wider society."

Citron was born in Newark, N.J. in 1896. Seeking to break away from life as a middle-class housewife, Citron took art lessons at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, the New York School of Applied Design for Women, and finally in 1928, she enrolled in the highly respected Arts Students League, where she studied painting and printmaking.

Citron started her career as a representational artist, creating satirical prints of everyday life. Her series "Feminanities," gently skewered the pretensions of middle-class women and made clear her critique of a society that valued women solely for their beauty. She went on to create other series focusing on gambling and court cases, but eventually she traveled across the country as an artist for the Work Progress Administration's Federal Art Program and produced a series of prints based on WAVES, the women who had joined the U.S. Navy during World War II.

After the war, Citron moved into abstraction, producing works that gradually moved from representative subjects into abstractions. She also began to produce her prints in color, traveling to France to learn new techniques relating to color printing, which she subsequently brought back to the United States.

By the 1950s, Citron also began experimenting with found objects, collage and other aspects of three-dimensional art and by the 1970s she returned to some of her earlier styles to explore or re-interpret some earlier ideas.

Citron produced art well into her 90s (she died in 1991) and always looked to new ideas and new methods to energize her. Streb quotes the artist in her book, "I am a very experimental person. That's what gives life zest for me."

The Juniata College Museum of Art is located in historic Carnegie Hall at 17th and Moore streets in Huntingdon. Museum hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, please call the museum at (814) 641-3505, or visit the Juniata College Web site at http://www.juniata.edu/museum.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.