John Carson Brassefort was an American painter whose work spanned the period between realism and abstraction. Virtually unknown today, his latter-period paintings were the most reproduced works of his day, and had a place in millions of American homes and businesses. He has been called “the most trodden-upon artist” of the 20th century. The originals of his work disappeared decades ago, and even reproductions are difficult to find.
This site attempts to provide a complete account of Brassefort’s major works from his most productive period, 1927 - 1954, when he created more than 50 pieces in his “Repetitions” series.
Brassefort was born in Walton, New Jersey in 1896 to Albert Brassefort, a flax trader, and his wife Jennie.
For a while he worked in the late Ashcan School, then joined the offshoot Ashtray School before breaking with its founder over the spelling of “Ocher”; he then joined the Ash-heap School, mostly known for impressionistic studies of historical events, concentrating on the losers of these conflicts.
His sudden move to modernism came when he met Piet Mondrian in a New York bar frequented by policemen and Dutch painters, the Copper Still.
“As I watched Mondrian draw on a napkin, I marveled at the exquisite perfection of his line. Three lines, north to south, then three lines, east to west. The way the horizontal and vertical elements intersected with unstudied perfection was typical of his exacting craftsmanship. Then, to my astonishment, he drew a line in one of the boxes formed by the grid. It had a 45 degree angle - something that never occurred in his work - and he immediately pierced it with another from the other direction, so this contrary symbol, this ‘X,’ seemed to destroy the ordered precision of the grid he had made.
“But what happened next truly changed my life. Mondrian looked up at me, and said ‘Your move, young man.’ I was stunned. He had shown me the way in which his art could be changed for the better, and was trusting me to carry on. I took the piece of paper and put it in my pocket, which seemed to surprise him - perhaps he had made this challenge to others, but they lacked the courage to take him up on his offer.”