Schwartz also played a key role in the transmission of expressionist values to a younger generation. After Zerbe’s departure in 1954, Schwartz was the only remaining dyed-in-the-wool Boston Expressionist left on the faculty at the Museum School, where he taught until 1990. Like Zerbe, he was a beloved teacher and became an important bridge between mid-century Boston Expressionism and the local manifestations of Neo-Expressionism in the eighties and later.
Three other painters—Barbara Swan, Bernard Chaet, and Lois Tarlow—studied under Zerbe at the Museum School, and while their early works all directly reflected their Boston Expressionist milieu, they went on to pursue paths that gently diverged from the heady humanism, mystical musings, and strict focus on the figure that predominated in the fifties. Barbara Swan is, as art historian Pamela Allara put it, “a Boston Expressionist in spirit if not in style.”38 This analysis was shared by Dorothy Adlow, venerable art critic for The Christian Science Monitor, who in her review of Swan’s first solo exhibition in 1953 wrote, “Barbara Swan is above all a portraitist … In painting, she combines the interest in personal characterization with decorative device and expressiveness of color. . . . Combined in the paintings are various influences—academic, expressionistic, neo-impressionistic.”39 Swan’s painting bears all of this out. In it, one can see her considerable academic skills in the renderings of anatomy and drapery. Yet the painting also reveals her expressionist training in its odd plunging perspective, use of evocative colors, and almost spiritual contrast of darks and lights.
Swan—along with Lois Tarlow—also strikes an early feminist note in the almost all-male club of Boston Expressionism. This is a self-portrait of the artist nursing her infant son, Aaron Fink (a member of the next generation of expressionist painters in Boston). Swan continued to create works of art while assuming the duties of wife and mother in the late fifties and sixties, a time when a great many other women put aside or abandoned careers in favor of an exclusive focus on their families. With the composition of this painting, she also managed to avoid stereotypical Madonna and Child clichés and express honest and ambivalent emotions about motherhood and breastfeeding. Over the next few decades, the artist gradually adopted a more realist style, but her thematic focus remained on the complexities of identity within the format of portraiture. In her best-known works, Swan painted herself, and the images of others, amidst the reflections and refractions of studio still life vignettes of assembled glass vessels and mirrors.
Bernard Chaet completed his studies at the Museum School in 1947, and in 1951 he was hired by Josef Albers to teach at the prestigious Fine Arts Department at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Although he remained at Yale until 1990, he remained a strong presence in the Boston art world, showing consistently at the Boris Mirski Gallery and later the Alpha Gallery. His early work was very much in line with the prevailing expressionist trends, with strongly drawn and richly colored figurative works that addressed profoundly humanistic themes. In his later work, he turned increasingly toward pure landscape—a major facet of expressionist interest that was given short shrift at the Museum School. Chaet became a great colorist and a master of the expressive possibilities that lie in the technical manipulations of paint: texture, impasto, and brushwork. In works like his , one can discern the influence of early German Expressionist landscape painting, but also Matisse and prewar American Modernism. Chaet has faithfully carried the tradition of native abstract landscape, established by John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, and Arthur Dove, into the late twentieth century. About the cow theme, which recurs in his work, Chaet wrote: “This motif started when I was drawing landscape in Connecticut and some cows literally walked into my drawing space. I was attracted by the individual black and white shapes playing against the hills and foliage. I translated these drawings into paintings indoors.”40 Like a true expressionist, Chaet works as much from his memory and imagination as his observations of natural phenomena.
Lois Tarlow also became best-known as a landscape painter. Like Barbara Swan, her early work focused on portraits of her family and domestic scenes, in an expressionist style nuanced by academic drawing. But she truly came into her own in the seventies, when she began a series of large, stylized landscapes that imposed a lyrical, expressive order on unruly nature. Like Chaet, she paints from memory: , for example, was painted in her studio, based on her observations of the Marshfield, Massachusetts, saltwater marshes, which she had seen while driving by in her car.41 In this painting, she captures the unmistakable (at least to coastal New Englanders) look of the marsh but orders its pools into regressing blue crescents and enflames the foliage with reds and pinks. The image is not about the marsh per se but her experience of it, both visual and psychological. Later works by Tarlow became more formally agitated, and more concerned with environmental issues. But as the artist explained, “Through the years, some formal aspects of my work have remained constant. However representational my paintings may appear, abstraction has always been a strong impetus. Color is continually food for my spirit…. I like a surface achieved with apparent ease from a sensual enjoyment of the paint or pastel. These threads bind the years together.”42
Mention must also be made of Mitchell Siporin, a nationally prominent Chicago painter who came to Brandeis University in 1951 as the founding director of the Department of Fine Arts. For at least a decade prior to this appointment, Siporin had been in the same rough orbit as his Boston Expressionist contemporaries. With Bloom and Levine, his work was included in MoMA’s Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States; he had directed the Museum School’s summer program in the Berkshires in 1948; and, in his well-received work prior to World War II, Siporin had managed to create a persuasive blend of expressionist style and Social-Realist content not unlike Levine. About the painter’s imagery in the thirties and forties, Carl Belz wrote, “his figures are twisted out of shape, their heads and limbs are given exaggerated proportions, and the spaces they occupy are warped into nightmarish configurations.”43 Siporin specialized in depicting human suffering.
After the war, and increasingly into the fifties, Siporin’s themes became more gently satirical, his figures less grotesque and more caricatured, and his style more abstract, flat, and color-saturated. All of this is evident in , where the artist smiles at human foibles on parade at the seaside. Also evident is his work’s remarkable resemblance to many of the salient characteristics of Boston Expressionism: jewel-like passages of color, hieratic scale, ambiguous space, and a compositional debt to Beckmann and Zerbe. Surely Siporin’s work had been influenced by his exposure to the paintings he was encountering in local museums and galleries.44 Siporin’s teaching also took on an expressionist tone, and in 1954 he hired Arthur Polonsky, who would teach for ten years at Brandeis before moving to Boston University. With Zerbe and Aronson, Siporin became the third pillar of expressionist pedagogy in Boston.