Mary Callery

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Mary Callery
Callery in 1952
Born(1903-06-19)June 19, 1903
New York City, USA
DiedFebruary 12, 1977 (aged 73)
Paris, France
Known forSculpture
MovementAbstract expressionism; American Figurative Expressionism

Mary Callery (June 19, 1903 – February 12, 1977) was an American artist known for her Modern and Abstract Expressionist sculpture. She was part of the New York School art movement of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

It is said she "wove linear figures of acrobats and dancers, as slim as spaghetti and as flexible as India rubber, into openwork bronze and steel forms. A friend of Picasso, she was one of those who brought the good word of French modernism to America at the start of World War II".[1]


Early life and education[edit]

James Dawson Callery (1901)

Mary Callery was born June 19, 1903, in New York City and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[2] She was the daughter of Julia Welch and James Dawson Callery, the President of the Diamond National Bank and Chairman of Pittsburgh Railways Company.

Callery studied at the Art Students League of New York (1921–1925) with Edward McCartan and moved to Paris in 1930. From 1930 to 1940, Callery worked in France, where she met and became friends with Pablo Picasso,[3] Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Aristide Maillol,[4] and other leading artists of the day and collected their art. During this same period, she also developed her talents as a modern sculptor, studying privately under Jacques Loutchansky.[1][5]


When Germany occupied Paris during World War II, she returned to the United States with "more Picassos than anyone in America" according to Alfred Barr of the Museum of Modern Art.[4]

After returning to New York, Callery played an instrumental role in the development and growth of ULAE (Universal Limited Art Editions, Inc.). For many years, ULAE primarily published reproductions. It is thought by many that Mary Callery was the first artist to print original work at ULAE.[6] Callery's first edition with ULAE, Sons of Morning, was completed in 1955. The paper that Callery's second edition, Variations on a Theme of “Callery-Léger”, was printed on was called the “Callery gray” was used by Mrs. Grosman for the studio's first printed labels, and is still the trademark gray ULAE uses today.[7]

Callery's sculpture at the Metropolitan Opera

Architect Philip Johnson, whom she had met her in Paris, became a close friend, and he introduced her to major players in the world of business and art in New York, including Nelson and Abby Rockefeller. Wallace Harrison, who along with Johnson, was responsible for the design of Lincoln Center, commissioned Callery to create a sculpture for the top of the proscenium arch at the Metropolitan Opera House.[4] Described as "an untitled ensemble of bronze forms creating a bouquet of sculptured arabesques,"[8] it is perhaps her best known work. It is most affectionately known by The Metropolitan Opera Company members as "The Car Wreck" and more infrequently as "Spaghetti Spoon in Congress with Plumbers Strap."

She was represented by the prestigious art dealers M. Knoedler & Co. and the Curt Valentin Gallery, and she exhibited in more than twenty noteworthy solo and group exhibitions.[9] She became an acquaintance of Georgia O'Keeffe and in 1945 made a sculpture of O'Keeffe's head.

In 1945, she was invited to join the summer faculty of Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she taught alongside Josef Albers, Robert Motherwell, Lyonel Feininger, and Walter Gropius.[6]

Personal life[edit]

In 1923, she married Frederic R. Coudert Jr., lawyer (and future member of Congress). They had one daughter, Caroline, born in 1926. Mary sought a divorce from Coudert in 1930 and in 1931 married Italian textile industrialist and fine art collector Carlo Frua de Angeli.[10][11] This second marriage also ended in divorce. Following the beginning of the Second World War, she carried on a romantic relationship with architect Mies van der Rohe who designed an artist's studio for her in Huntington, on Long Island, New York.[4]

Later life and death[edit]

In her later years, Callery maintained studios in New York, Huntington, Long Island, and Paris.[6] She died on February 12, 1977, at the American Hospital of Paris. She is buried in Cadaqués, Spain.

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 1944, 1947, 1950, 1952, 1955: Buchholz Gallery, New York City
  • 1946: Arts Club of Chicago
  • 1947, 1949, 1950–1952, 1955: Curt Valentin Gallery, New York City
  • 1949: Salon du Mai, Paris
  • 1951: Margaret Brown Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1954: Galerie des Cahiers d'Art
  • 1957, 1961, 1965: M. Knoedler & Co., New York City
  • 1962: M. Knoedler & Co., Paris
  • 1968: C. Holland Gallery, New York

Group exhibitions[edit]



  1. ^ a b Charlotte Steifer Rubinstein, "American Women Sculptors, A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions" page: 329
  2. ^ Michel Seuphor,The Sculpture of this Century, Publisher: George Braziller, Inc., New York, 1960. page: 246
  3. ^ Mary Callery,Mary Callery Sculpture. Distributed by Wittenborn and Company, New York, 1961. Page: VI
  4. ^ a b c d Welch, Frank D. (2000). Philip Johnson & Texas (1 ed.). Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292791348. Archived from the original on 2005-03-22.
  5. ^ Paul Cummings,"Dictionary of Contemporary American Artists" 1 to 5th edition, St. Martin's Press, New York; St. James Press, London
  6. ^ a b c "Mary Callery". The Johnson Collection, LLC. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  7. ^ "Mary Callery Prints at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE)". Archived from the original on 2008-08-20.
  8. ^ The Metropolitan Opera. "FAQs: The Opera House: "What is the sculpture over the stage?"". The Metropolitan Opera. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  9. ^ The Getty Research Institute. "Knoedler Gallery Archive". Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  10. ^ Shirey, David L. (1973-04-10). "A Picasso Sets Mark, 1.1‐Million". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-06-30. Although it is believed to have been part of Picasso's personal collection for a number of years as well as that of Daniel‐Henry Kahnweiler, his dealer, its history of ownership was not recorded until 1939. At that time the canvas passed into the hands of Mary Callery, a sculptor and friend of the artist. It was nurchased in 1960 by Frua de' Angeli, a Milanese collector. and subsequently, it is understood, was purchased by the Basel dealer Ernst Beyeler, who sold it to the National Gallery
  11. ^ "Pablo Picasso. Bather. winter 1908-09 | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2023-06-30.
  12. ^ Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. (1948). Painting toward architecture. [Shows Callery's Water ballet (1947) and Amity (study) (1946), pp. 115-16.] The Miller Company: Meriden, CT. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  13. ^ (August 29, 2016). 'The Painting toward architecture exhibition (1947-52) by the Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art: The artworks'. artdesigncafe. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  14. ^ a b (Undated). 'Callery, Mary. Amity (1947)'. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, website. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  15. ^ (Undated). 'Mary Callery. (1948). School of fish.' Addison Gallery of American Art website. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  16. ^ (Undated). 'Mary Callery (various sculptures)'. Smithsonian Institution website. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  17. ^ (Undated). "Mary Callery. (c. 1957). Variations on a theme of Callery-Leger". Indianapolis Museum of Art website. Retrieved January 22, 2017.


External links[edit]