Peter Busa, Untitled

Peter Busa


Untitled, ca. 1948


Oil on artist’s board


9 x 12″





Peter Busa (1914–1985) was a painter and sculptor from Minneapolis, MN. He studied at the Art Students League with Thomas Hart Benton in the same class as Jackson Pollock. In 1935 he began studies with Hans Hofmann in New York and Provincetown.

In 1938-39 Busa made many visits to the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian with his friends Steve Wheeler, Will Barnet, and Robert Barrell. In writing about these earlier cultures, Busa said “There was a genuine love for economy of forms and unfettered simplicity of direct statement…the structure of the space reflected by American Indian art was all-positive, without negative space. This was a unique idea compared to say, Cubism, which dealt with positive and negative space. They elevated primitive art to the same level of accepted art. We did for American Indian art, you might say, what Picasso did for African art.”

Busa’s Indian Space paintings date from the late 1930’s to the late 1950’s. After abandoning Indian Space for styles more closely akin to abstract expressionism and geometric abstraction in the sixties and seventies, Busa returned to an evolved form of Indian Space painting in the eighties.


Exhibitions include:
New York Worlds Fair, 1939
Walker Art Center
Art of this Century, Peggy Guggenheim, 1946
American Federation of Arts, “Young Painters USA”
Whitney Museum
Art Institute of Chicago, 1940
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1946, 1951–54
Albright-Knox Gallery, 1954
Chrysler Museum, 1959 (retrospective)
Ford Foundation, 1962 (prize)
Parrish Art Museum
Carlebach Gallery
Bertha Schaefer Gallery, 1949–51


Selected Public collections:
Butler Institute of American Art
Brandeis University
Chrysler Museum of Art
Colby College Museum
Cooper Union
Cornell University
Dayton Art Institute
Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY
Solomon Guggenheim Foundation
Guild Hall Museum
Iowa State College
La Jolla Museum
Metropolitan Museum
Michigan State University
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Smithsonian Museum
Portland Art Museum, Portland, ME
Provincetown Art Association and Museum
Rutgers University
Smith College Museum
St. Lawrence University Museum
Tweed Museum of Art
University of Massachusetts
University of Minnesota
University of North Carolina
University of Oregon
University of Wisconsin
Walker Art Center
Whitney Museum