Denver ArtScene Interviews Dorothy Tanner

“Denver ArtScene features a gallery of light and sound, Lumonics, and the amazing 94-year-old artist Dorothy Tanner. With host Bobby LeFebre. Denver 8 is the award-winning municipal access television station for the City and County of Denver, Colorado.”


John Ferren (Oct. 17,1905 – July 1,1970)

Image result for john ferren

John Ferren was Mel Tanner’s favorite art instructor at the Brooklyn Museum Art School circa 1950, and Mel would speak of him over the years. I regret not asking more questions about their student/teacher relationship during Mel’s lifetime because I can look back at Mel’s paintings and collages before and even after the light art, and can see how influenced he was, now that more information about John Ferren and his body of work is available on the world wide web. Because of my exploration, I have also developed an online friendship with his son, Bran Ferren.

John Ferren (1905–1970) was an American artist. In his 20s, he apprenticed as a stonecutter in San Francisco, California. He is Bran Ferren‘s father. He is noted for his success in France as an American artist. Writer Gertrude Stein said of him “Ferren ought be a man who is interesting, he is the only American painter foreign painters in Paris consider as a painter and whose paintings interest them. He is young yet and might do  that thing called abstract painting.”

For a short time, Ferren was an art school student in San Francisco. By the mid-1920s, Ferren was producing portrait busts. It was also around this time that he became interested in Buddhist and Eastern philosophy. By the early 1930s, he was attending the Académie Ranson, and the Sorbonne.

In the 1950s, Ferren collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock. In the movie The Trouble With Harry, the artworks of main character Sam Marlowe were painted by Ferren. In Vertigo, Ferren created the Jimmy Stewart nightmare sequence as well as the haunting Portrait of Carlotta.
(John Ferren on Wikipedia)

Image result for Group Portrait, New York City, 1941 image top row:Jimmy Ernst,



John Ferren, "Dance" (1962), oil on canvas, 22 x 22 inches

John Ferren, “Dance” (1962), oil on canvas, 22 x 22 inches


Installation view of 'John Ferren (1905–1970)' at David Findlay Jr. Gallery (photo by Jeffrey Sturges, all images courtesy David Findlay Jr. Gallery)

Installation view of 'John Ferren (1905–1970)' at David Findlay Jr. Gallery (photo by Jeffrey Sturges)Installation view of ‘John Ferren (1905–1970) at David Findlay Jr. Gallery (photos by Jeffrey Sturges) 

Related image

Born in Pendleton, Oregon, in 1905, as a young man, John Ferren apprenticed to an Italian stonecutter in San Francisco and briefly attended the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) in 1925. In 1929, Ferren traveled to New York and Paris, where he was exposed to the work of Hans HofmannHenri Matisse, and the holdings of Albert Eugene Gallatin, an influential collector of abstract and nonobjective art. While in Europe, Ferren attended informal classes at the Sorbonne, Académie de la Grande Chaumière, and Académie Ranson. However, according to the artist, he was most influenced by socializing with other artists working in Paris at the time, including Alberto GiacomettiJoan MiróPiet MondrianPablo Picasso (whom Ferren would later help to sketch Guernica [1937]), and Joaquín Torres-García.

Ferren returned to the United States in 1930 but was quickly drawn back to Paris, where he lived and worked for the next eight years. While there, Ferren was linked to the group Abstraction-Création, an association of artists formed in Paris in 1931 to promote abstraction and counteract the trend toward Surrealism and figuration. He also met Pierre Matisse, son of the French painter Henri Matisse, who gave the artist his first solo show in New York, in 1936. While working at Stanley William Hayter’s prominent workshop Atelier 17 in Paris, Ferren discovered a nineteenth-century printing technique whereby an engraved and inked plate is imprinted in wet plaster, which, once dry, is then carved and painted. Two such engraved plasters by Ferren were among the first examples by an American artist to be acquired by Solomon R. Guggenheim, in 1938.

On returning to the United States, Ferren became acquainted with Taoism and Zen Buddhism through his friendship with Chinese American avant-garde artist Yun Gee, who explored Taoist themes through his work. This exposure propelled Ferren toward an increased focus on evoking movement and unity through his abstract compositions (though he still occasionally painted figuratively and drew inspiration from the nature and landscape of the American West). Later in his career, he combined a number of different artistic ideologies, mixing, on the same canvas, strong architectural forms with expressionistic, painterly acts of spontaneity. In 1963, Ferren spent a year in Lebanon, which raised his awareness of Islamic art, returning his eye and practice to geometric forms.

Ferren taught at Queens College, the Brooklyn Museum Art School, and Cooper Union, all New York. In 1955, he served as the president of the Club, an Abstract Expressionist organization. In the late 1950s, Alfred Hitchcock enlisted Ferren as an artistic consultant on the films The Trouble with Harry (1955) and Vertigo (1958). During his lifetime, Ferren’s work was exhibited in solo and group presentations throughout the United States, including the groundbreaking Ninth Street Show of works by sixty-one New York–based artists held in 1951 in a vacated storefront on the eponymous street. Ferren remained active as an artist until his death in Southampton, New York, in 1970. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 1979.
coutesy of


Bran Ferren discusses growing up with artist parents