John McLaughlin

(1898 - 1976)

About The Artist


One of the pioneers of the Hard Edge movement, John McLaughlin (1898-1976) is known for his efficient use of color and form to create art separated from history and genre. Unlike his formally trained contemporaries, McLaughlin did not devote himself full-time to painting until he moved from Boston to Southern California in 1946. He was already 61 when his paintings were exhibited in the pioneering “Four Abstract Classicists” exhibit along with Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley, and Karl Benjamin. Before the midcentury, McLaughlin sold Japanese prints, served in World War II as an army intelligence language officer, and traveled to Japan and China where he studied Asian painting. He wrote to Jules Langsner concerning his appreciation of the Asian approach to painting, “…above all the most compelling quality in this has been economy of means in concert with large, unpainted areas,” he explained. “These paintings I could get into and tell me who I was. By contrast, Western painters tried to tell me who they were.” In McLaughlin’s work from 1962, Untitled (#11-1962), he adheres to the Japanese principle of “the marvelous void,” both on and off the canvas. The action seemingly continues beyond the borders of the canvas, the black rectangular abyss multiplied exponentially amidst a dimensionless atmosphere of white. Similar examples of this work currently reside in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


Colpitt, Frances. “Hard Edge Cool.” The Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury. Ed. Elizabeth Armstrong. Newport Beach: Orange County Museum of Art, 2007. 80-106. Print.