Web Analytics

Press Release

Sullivan Goss Gallery is excited to announce an exhibition from the Estate of Leon Dabo timed to coincide with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s major Van Gogh-themed exhibition

Leon Dabo was a French-born American artist who became well known before the first world war as a Tonalist painter. As one of the organizers of the 1913 Armory show in New York City, Dabo played a key role in introducing Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Modernism to an American audience. After his time spent in Europe as an intelligence officer during the First World War, his work took a dramatic turn towards Post-Impressionism with pieces that show the obvious influence of Van Gogh's work, an aesthetic lineage that only became stronger after the Second World War. 

When the Santa Barbara Museum of Art first reached out looking for partners to collaborate with them during the run of their show, it would have been impossible to foresee how the upcoming global pandemic would postpone their enormous efforts. But our excitement to show the late work of Leon Dabo concurrently with the Van Gogh exhibition immediately across the street made it an easy decision to postpone our show until the stars were realigned. 

This body of work was largely overlooked during the artist's life, and by early biographers. With the benefit of a more complete historical context this group of paintings, many of which were painted after his 80th birthday, they now seem to be amongst Dabo’s boldest and most unique. 

As part of our ongoing scholarship on the artist, Sullivan Goss will be releasing our fourth hardbound publication on the artist to accompany this exhibition.


Leon Dabo made his living early on doing decorative art and design for interiors, especially the interiors of churches and synagogues.

Starting around the turn of the century, however, he began to actively seek a living as a fine artist with an increased focus on easel painting. He found his earliest success as a Tonalist, a painter who restricted both the contrast and the hue of his paintings of New York and the Hudson River Valley. A string of successful shows across the US and abroad confirmed him as one of America’s pre-eminent painters in the Tonal tradition.

In 1910, he joined his friends from the Ashcan School in showing at the Exhibition of Independent Artists – a pivotal exhibition for loosening the National Academy of Design’s grip on what could be considered good or important. Later, he joined his Ashcan friends and other progressive artists in forming the Association of American Painters and Sculptors to mount the International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as “The Armory Show.” In fact, the organizing meetings for the Armory Show were held in his studio. 

With an almost fifteen year string of increasing fame and exhibition opportunities, Dabo stopped to join the Army, serving as an officer in World War I. His career languished a bit, but by the early 1930s, he was back in the swing of things with a body of Symbolist floral still lifes in both oil and pastel. 

World War II caught him at age 75 in Paris with 300 works of art and a Jewish wife. His palette grew darker and his paint application more passionate and even violent. It wouldn’t lighten until the end of the war, though he found great success in a 1941 exhibition entitled When I Last Saw France

After the war, his palette lightened and expanded to encompass a full rainbow of hues. His brushstroke loosened and he happily painted Provence, showing in an tribute exhibition to Cézanne. 



4:55  |  Jeremy Tessmer

Back To Top