About Maurice Gordon

MGordonMaurice Gordon was a 20th century American painter, illustrator and set designer who worked in oil and gouache.  He lived and worked in New York City, designing sets for major television networks and supplying illustrations and commercial designs for advertising agencies in New York and Paris.  His oils and gouaches focused on themes of decay (a fallen Greek column, a hollow cypress stump, a fading plantation), ports (Rockport, Cadiz, Provincetown, Venice, San Francisco), New York City street scenes, and architectural studies ranging from Southern mansions to urban tenements.

His paintings have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, Berkshire Museum, Tanglewood Festival, Dayton Art Museum, The Art Museum of Muncie, Indiana and the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, Mass. One of his watercolors, Naples, remains in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago; it was acquired in 1940. He had six one-man shows at the Passedoit Gallery in New York and exhibited at the Wildenstein Galleries. His oil painting  Chico’s Funeral won first prize in 1958 at the Great Barrington Art Show. (The prize was awarded by Norman Rockwell.)

Mr. Gordon designed sets for early live TV in the 1950s, including shows sponsored by Alcoa, Goodyear and Hallmark. He designed sets for the TV productions “Billy the Kid” and Somerset Maugham’s The Letter. He also designed magazine ads for jewelry maker Van Cleef and Arpels, among others.

His sets for TV ads included commercials for American Gas Co., Alcoa, American Safety Razor, Bulova Watches, Cracker Jacks, General Electric, Ivory Soap, Koehler Beer, Folgers Coffee and Hydroelectric Power Co.  New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller had him build a set for the governor’s early televised speeches because lights and cameras in that era were too large for the governor’s real office.  He received Clio awards for outstanding design in advertising in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1969.  He also designed the sets for two movies, “Santa Claus Visits the Martians” (1964) and “The Daydreamer,” (1966) an animated film.

Mr. Gordon was born in 1913 in Hartford, Connecticut.  After graduating from high school in 1932 in Holyoke, Mass., where his father operated the Nassau Inn, he received a scholarship to the Parsons School of Design in New York.  He spent four years at Parsons, then was awarded a scholarship to study in Paris.  He arrived in Paris in 1935 and spent several years in France, Italy and Spain during various trips and for study. While studying in France, his illustrations appeared in Figaro Illustre.  He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940 and entered the Camouflage Corps, where he spent five years in both Europe and the Pacific.  For a time, he was stationed in Mississippi and painted scenes of the South.

After his discharge, he traveled extensively, drawing inspiration from scenes in Egypt, North Africa, Nepal, Burma, Pakistan, India, Yugoslavia and Portugal.

Mr. Gordon died of a heart attack on a Manhattan sidewalk on Nov. 6, 1971, at the age of 58.

Sources:

New York Times newspapers articles about exhibitions between 1938 and 1946, family recollections, the artist’s diaries.

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