A.L Chanin homepage graphic


Abraham Chanin, Painter, Writer, Educator

I never did know A. L. Chanin, or "Abe" as the family called him. Always off drawing somewhere during his childhood, he had grown up to become a painter and then a renowned lecturer and educator at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Over the years he brought his own style to the task of explaining contemporary painting and sculpture to the public.

However he lived on the other side of the continent when I married his brother's daughter and we never made it out there until well after he had died.

I wish I had met him, he must have been a very interesting man to say the least. A boy painter who taught himself his own art, he would one day teach art to others through the popular media and within one of the leading museums of modern art of the world. He advanced his creative life by way of an early attachment to one of the first collectors of modern art in America and then dropped the paints and brush and went on to write and teach to the very end of his life.

His struggle had begun in the America of the twenties and, like many others, he survived the thirties only to take part in the Second World War. Returning from a service partly spent in the worst battle of the war in western Europe, he took his position behind the lectern and the typewriter and never abandoned it. He was writing and helping students from the hospital until the end.

When we die, we leave behind primarily the memories that others may have of us, and of course, we leave our 'artifacts', those physical artifices of life bobbing in our wake as we pass by from this existence. Many artifacts are not deemed true 'art' and sink amid the waves never to be seen again. Others, that are thought less mundane, may float ashore here and there for the benefit of those left behind.

Abe Chanin left a number of things for us to spot in the surf and pick up along the shoreline but a good many are still on the ocean floor.

After the passing of his widow, Margit, at the end of 2001, Abe's paintings, drawings and water colors virtually disappeared amidst the dispersal of the great art collection he and his wife, Margit had amassed over the years. Perhaps some day Abe's visual work may surface but no one can tell when.

This web site is an attempt to collect what may still be found and then present it to the world so that Abe's teaching can go on yet again, more than thirty-four years after his death. Until his art is recovered, the work presented here will only be of a written nature and include the most popular of the material with which he brought an appreciation of Modern Art to many people.

The first work presented here is not one done by Abe however. It's loving biographical sketch of his life that appeared a few years after Abe died written by his friend, Jack Harrison Pollack. In the future, others will add their memories of A. L. Chanin and more writings will appear as they become available.

Second is the article of which Jack wrote was one of he last Abe ever did. Prepared for a retrospective exhibit of two artists from the Bauhaus era in the Weimar years of pre-WWII Germany, it shows Abe's concise and informative style was with him as he wrote his last. Elsewhere in the brochure, Abe's wife Margit is credited with introducing the two artist to America.

-Bob Gill, 6 January, 2002

The Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center has begun work on translating the diary of Abe's older brother, Israel Chanin.Covering the years of his teens, the Israel Chanin Diary is a rare glimpse into the life of an imigrant youth written in his native language during the early part of the twentieth century.