Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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John D. McLaughlin



Creation Date


Medium & Support

casein and graphite on masonite


23 in. x 28 in. (58.42 cm x 71.12 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Eliot O'Hara

Accession Number



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John McLaughlin, who did not receive any formal training in studio art, explored the potential of geometric abstraction introduced by the early-twentieth century European avant-garde, especially Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. McLaughlin grew up in Boston, and after serving in World War I worked there as a successful realtor. His frequent trips to the Museum of Fine Arts inspired his passion for Japanese culture. He went on to live in Japan (1935–1938) and to study the language in Hawaii before becoming a translator for the United States Marine Corps in World War II. He moved to California in 1946 as a full-time artist, and quickly established himself within a group of “hard-edge” painters. Rejecting the dynamic gestures of Abstract Expressionism in favor of a controlled, even paint application, McLaughlin and his cohort aimed at reducing the artist’s presence in the work of art. “My purpose is to achieve the totally abstract,” McLaughlin indicated. “I want to communicate only to the extent that the painting will serve to induce or intensify the viewer’s natural desire for contemplation without the benefit of a guiding principle.”

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