John Ferren

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John Ferren
Born (1905-10-17)October 17, 1905
Died July 1, 1970(1970-07-01) (aged 64)
Nationality American
Known for Oil painting
Movement Abstract Expressionism

John Ferren (1905–1970) was an American artist. In his 20s, he apprenticed as a stonecutter in San Francisco, California. 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."[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

John Ferren was born in Pendleton, Oregon on October 17, 1905.

John Ferren, (1905–1970) untitled 1951 (Di Rocco Wieler Private Collection Toronto Canada, 78"x49", oil on canvas, with plaster and sand)


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, Académie de la Grande Chaumiere.[1] Although for the most part not formally educated, preferring to develop his art through an adventurous life style, and interaction with other artists, he was known as an intellectual among his peers. He wrote many published articles on abstract art and art theory.

While in Paris, Ferren was part of the community of artists working in Europe in the 1920s and 30s, including Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Hans Hofmann, Joaquín Torres-García, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Piet Mondrian, and Pablo Picasso. He became quite friendly with Picasso who mentored him, and together they stretched the canvas for Guernica, in 1937.[2]

He returned from Europe to the United States in 1938, to live in New York City. He was a founding member (and later president) of The Club, a group of artists who were at the heart of the emerging New York School of abstract expressionism.[3]

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.[4]

Personal life[edit]


Ferren was married to impressionist painter Rae (Tonkel) Ferren in 1949, who died September 6, 2016.[5] Their son, Bran Ferren, is a noted designer, technologist, inventor, and businessman.[6]

Ferren died at his home in at his home in Springs, New York with his family in 1970, and is buried at Green River Cemetery, East Hampton.

Notable Exhibitions & Galleries[edit]

  • Art Center, San Francisco, California
  • 9th Street Art Exhibition[7][8]
  • Galerie Pierre, Paris[9]
  • Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York[10]
  • The Stable Gallery, New York[10]
  • The Rose Fried Gallery, New York
  • Catherine Rich Perlow Gallery, New York
  • The David Findlay Jr Gallery, New York[11]

Notable Public Collections (partial)[edit]

  • The Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
  • The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California
  • The Crocker Museum, Sacramento, California
  • Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania
  • The James Michener Collection, Univ. of Texas, Austin
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy


  1. ^ "John Ferren | Smithsonian American Art Museum". Retrieved 2017-07-29. 
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-07-29.  External link in |title= (help)
  3. ^ "John Ferren - Bio". Retrieved 2017-07-29. 
  4. ^ Film, The Art Of (2014-03-02). "The Art of Film : The Midge Portrait in "Vertigo:" The Parody of Carlotta". The Art of Film. Retrieved 2017-07-29. 
  5. ^ "Rae Ferren, Artist Was 87 | The East Hampton Star". Retrieved 2017-07-29. 
  6. ^ "Bran Ferren | Stern Speakers". Stern Speakers. Retrieved 2017-07-29. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Stein, Gertrude. Everybodys autobiography. 
  9. ^ "Artist Info". Retrieved 2017-07-29. 
  10. ^ a b "Guggenheim". Retrieved 2017-07-29. 
  11. ^ "Artists". Retrieved 2017-07-29.