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Walter Quirt (1902 - 1968)


Walter Quirt was born in Iron River, Michigan in 1902 and began drawing well before he entered his teens.  After high school, Quirt moved to Wisconsin and studied at the Layton School of Art from 1921 until 1923.  This led to him becoming an instructor at the Layton School of Art from 1924-1928.  Quirt continued his artistic studies at the McDowell Colony in New Hampshire in 1928 and 1929, however, his formal training went no further, allowing him the independence to experiment stylistically throughout a very prolific and eclectic career. 


Next, he moved to New York City and became one of the most vital and active figures of the New York avant-garde art world of the 1930s.  He worked for the Works Project Administration painting murals in the mid-1930s.  He later moved to Minneapolis and taught art at the University of Minnesota from 1947 to 1968.  He was appointed as a full professor in 1959.  Quirt died of lung cancer on March 19, 1968, in Minneapolis. 


Early in his career, Quirt painted the social problems of his time in a realistic style.  During the 1930s he aligned himself with the radical political causes of the time by illustrating for political magazines, such as New Masses, and by becoming active in the John Reed Club.  After many years of painting as a Social Realist, Quirt became one of the first American artists to convert to Social Surrealist techniques in order to better express his passion for political struggle and social awareness in his art. 


He had a retrospective exhibition of his work in 1960 through the American Federation of Arts, and he showed during his career at the Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

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