Rolph Scarlett

Rolph Scarlett
 Composition with yellow discs
Gouache on paper, circa 1940
8 x 13 inches

Rolph Scarlett was born in 1889, in Guelph, Ontario. Painter and designer of stage sets, industrial products and jewelry, was a favorite artist of Hilla Rebay, the painter who founded the Museum of Non-Objective Painting that eventually became the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Scarlett travelled to New York in 1913 where he viewed the Armory Show. He came away fascinated with modern art.

Publishers abstract: During Rolph Scarletts remarkable seventy-five year career he was an avant-garde abstract painter, an innovative set designer, an industrial designer and the creator of unique sculptural jewellery in the American modernist tradition. In this beautifully illustrated book, Judith Nasby presents a retrospective of his life and work. Scarlett was born in Guelph, Ontario, in 1889. By the time he moved to the United States in 1918 he had already had some experience with the techniques of painting, jewellery, and designing for the stage which he put to good use in his career in New York. During the 1930s and 1940s Scarlett was a leading practitioner of geometric abstraction, with sixty of his paintings in the collection of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (later the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum). A geometric sensibility also inspired the innovative, constructionist stage designs that he created for plays such as George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman (1929). As an industrial designer during the 1930s, Scarlett produced a remarkable body of design drawings for everything from household objects to New York Worlds Fair amusement rides and guided missiles. His streamlined modern designs emphasized efficiency, science, and progress. Throughout his life he had made unique sculptural jewellery and after his retirement in the 1960s jewellery increasingly became his focus. He actively made jewellery until a few years before his death at age ninety-five.

Recommended readings

  • Rolph Scarlett: Painter, Designer, and Jeweller by Judith Nasby, McGill-Queen’s University Press

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