Stanton Macdonald-Wright


Airplane Synchromy in Yellow Orange, 1920

My name is Philo Vance, and I used to be quite the fellow when it came to catchin’ crooks and droppin’ “g’s” in casual conversation.  I was a sort of relaxed, American version of Lord Peter Wimsey, always up to speed on obscure trivia and unlikely skills. My mysteries can be a pretty hard slog for modern readers, but there is yet enough wit and novelty that I have my fans even now. In my day, however, oh, mercy, in my day I was a powerhouse. I made a pile for my creator S.S. Van Dine.

Arcady Synchromy, 1924








Now S.S. Van Dine is not a real person, no sir. I think y’know what I’m talkin’ about. Like Ellery Queen and Kenneth Roberson and Maxwell Grant, Van Dine was just a pseudonym, a nom de plume. The actual writer had the even more unlikely name of Willard Huntington Wright, who was just smart enough to know that “Willard” was a horrible name for someone writing action fiction. But Willard was also the brother of Stanton Macdonald-Wright who was an artist and the co-creator of synchromism and that relationship explains how I, Philo Vance, genius detective and internationally respected dilettante wastrel, came to be the father of modern art.







That’s right. Me. Philo Vance.

Now I can hear you gaspin’ already. “Philo,” you say, “we already know you are an expert archer and fencer, an internationally renowned authority on fine arts, ceramics, textiles and tanagra figurines, that you are nearly a scratch golfer, a professional level handicapper of horse races, a gourmet, a connoisseur and the best dressed man in the history of humanity, but can you possibly be responsible for all of modern art?”

Yes. Yes, I can.

Stanton Macdonald-Wright was arguably first to pursue the notion of blending art theory with musical theory, to try and create harmonic patterns on canvas to which the observer would respond as he might to actual sounds. Kandinsky attacked this same subject from a somewhat different direction, and he did not call his approach sychromism, but who is to say he did not get the original idea from Wright? And since Kandinsky is generally credited with creating the very first true abstract painting, who is to say this inspiration,too, did not come from Wright?

California Landscape, 1909

Stanton Macdonald-Wright was able to run around pursuing his art in part because he was funded by his brother Willard, and Willard got all his cheddar from whom? Anyone? Anyone? That’s right. From me. Philo Vance, father of dada, surrealism, fauvism, abstract expressionism, futurism, Ismism, and the 3-D version of Titanic.

Raymond Chandler can kiss my ass.

Synchromy in Green and White, 1917

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2 Responses to Stanton Macdonald-Wright

  1. Pat Snyder says:

    I’m surprised to like these. I could live quite happily with the colors which are beautiful and can feel some of the theme in the work. I’m not a fan of being jolted which many artists feel is the proper mood for the “new”. Thanks for the introduction.

    • foxpudding says:

      Most of his later work is completely non-representational and shares something with the background doodles you remember from Warner Brothers cartoons way back when. Very whimsical and fun. I liked him. Everybody doesn’t have to shake the whole world.

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