Loren MacIver (1909-1998) quietly carved out a place for herself in the history of American art through poetic depictions of everyday observations which “succeed in instilling transient entities with a shimmering inner life, at once potent and fragile” (Roberta Smith, New York Times, 2000). Born and raised in New York, MacIver received little formal art training outside of a few Sunday classes at the Art Students League at the age of ten. In 1928, she moved to Greenwich Village, marrying the poet Lloyd Frankenberg (1907-1975). The pair would join the social circle of modernist poets including e. e. cummings, Elizabeth Bishop, and Marianne Moore. MacIver’s first major sale came in 1935, when Shack (1934) was purchased by the then-director of MoMA, Alfred Barr, and became the first painting by a woman in the museum’s permanent collection. Soon thereafter in 1940, MacIver gained representation from the Pierre Matisse Gallery, marking the beginning of a relationship that would last through 1989. At the time, MacIver was the only woman in Pierre Matisse’s stable. A decades-long career of abundant production and activity would follow, including the acquisition of A Fall of Snow (1948) by famed curator Dorothy Miller, and MacIver’s solo presentation at the 31st Venice Biennale in 1962, where she represented the United States.
In her paintings, much like in the work of the modernist poets that surrounded her, MacIver turned her patient and watchful eye towards the ephemerality of each passing moment, and the subtle qualities of the objects and scenes that constructed her lived experience. She spoke to these themes in her only official artist statement, published in 1946 on the occasion of her inclusion in the Whitney’s exhibition Fourteen Americans: “My wish is to make something permanent out of the transitory, by means at once dramatic and colloquial. Certain moments have the gift of revealing the past and foretelling the future. It is these moments that I hope to catch.”