John Ferren 1905 - 1970 American Abstract Expressionism/ New York School Painters, Sculptors
John Ferren, a native of Oregon, was trained as a mechanical engineer and graduated from Polytechnic High School, Los Angeles, in 1923. After moving to San Francisco and apprenticing himself to a local stonecutter—for whom he carved tombstones and architectural details—Ferren began to study Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and related Asian philosophies, and developed a mystical aesthetic that incorporated concepts of chance, movement, light, and spaces underscored by a sense of harmonic unity. During an extended sojourn in Europe, he took up abstract painting in Paris from 1931 to 1938. He moved in the avant-garde circle of the Paris artists’ association Abstraction-Création (he worked closely with Jean Hélion, a leading member), and produced paintings, carved plaster reliefs, and pastels that earned him the admiration of a transatlantic art world: Gertrude Stein saw in him the future of American painting. Ferren’s subsequent turn to biomorphism evinces his debt to Arp, Brancusi, Kandinsky, Klee, Léger, and Miró (the last whom Ferren knew closely). On his return to the United States in 1938, Ferren became involved with American Abstract Artists. By 1946 he had a loft studio at 52 East Ninth Street—an address he shared with Conrad Marca-Relli and Franz Kline—and he figured as an early habitué of the Club, the social and professional circle of the nascent New York School (he served as its president in 1955). Ferren purchased a summer home in East Hampton in 1957. Within a decade he and his third wife, Rae Ferren—herself a painter, and later an associate curator and registrar at Guild Hall, East Hampton—converted the house into a year-round residence; Ferren continued to maintain a studio on Spring Street in SoHo.
John Ferren purchased a summer home in East Hampton in 1957 and within a decade converted it into a year-round residence he shared with his wife, the painter Rae Ferren.