Morris Hirshfield, “Girl with Pigeons” (1942), oil on canvas, 30 x 40 1/8 inches, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection, 1969 (© 2022 Robert and Gail Rentzer for Estate of Morris Hirshfield/ Licensed by VAGA at ArtistsRights Society (ARS), NY)
After retiring as a women’s tailor and footwear manufacturer in 1935, Morris Hirshfield, a Russian-Polish Jewish immigrant living in New York City, began painting at age 65. While quickly gaining prominence, even earning a solo retrospective at MoMA in 1943, the self-taught painter was ceaselessly derided by critics for his seemingly naive style. The work on display in Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered at the American Folk Art Museum shows the opposite: Hirshfield’s singular vision manifests palpably in exuberant figures and colorful patterns on canvas. Untethered from the restrictions of commercial garment work, the artist infused his decorative sensibilities and craft expertise into paintings that depicted women, landscapes, and animals in wholly unique ways.