Artist Profile – Justin McCarthy

Ice Capades -- William Rider

Justin McCarthy / Ice Capades -- William Rider, / 1965 / oil pastel, crayon, and waterbased paint on thin board / 14 x 22 inches / Collection Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Nancy Green Karlins and Mark Thoman, 2002 / Photo by Lynn Rosenthal

1892–1977, lived and worked in Weatherly, Pennsylvania

Justin McCarthy was born into a wealthy family in Weatherly, Pennsylvania, where his father was a gentleman farmer and sometime publisher. After the death of his father and brother and the loss of the family fortune, he lived with his mother in the family mansion until she too passed away in 1940; he continued solitary existence in the estate, taking menial jobs to support himself. McCarthy attended two years of law school at the University of Pennsylvania, but failed his exams, leading to a nervous breakdown and subsequent hospitalization. It was during his stay in the hospital in the 1920s that McCarthy began drawing and not until some twenty years later that he began using oils. Employing a distinctive acidic palette and a brash technique reminiscent of German Expressionism, he painted anything that interested him: movie stars, high fashion, sporting events, scenes from the Ice Capades, flowers, and vegetables. The works remained largely ignored until the 1960s, when collector Dorothy Strauser discovered McCarthy at an outdoor show in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He soon became associated with the “Strauser Circle,” which included such local self-taught artists as Victor Joseph Gatto, Jack Savitsky, and “Old Ironsides” Pry. His work was first exhibited with these artists in a traveling exhibition, “Seventeen Naive Painters,” organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Today, Justin McCarthy’s work is included in many museums and galleries across the United States.

Artist’s Work