Loren MacIver captured the essence of her subjects through abstract images composed of veils of color and subtle, shimmering light. Born in New York City, MacIver was essentially a self-taught painter, having attended classes at the Art Students League only briefly at ages ten and eleven. Her work was included in group shows at New York’s Contemporary Arts Gallery in 1933 and 1942, which brought her work to the attention of important collectors as well other key figures in the art world: Alfred Stieglitz, John Sloan, and Alfred Barr, director of the Museum of Modern Art. The Museum of Modern Art acquired one of her works in 1935, well before her first one-person exhibition in 1938 at Marian Willard’s East River Gallery. From 1936 to 1939 she worked on the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration.
By the early 1950s MacIver was known for abstract compositions that incorporated recognizable fragments from her native New York City and from European locales. After a 1953 retrospective of her work organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, MacIver went to Europe, remaining there until 1954. She spent the 1960s almost exclusively in Europe, predominantly in Paris; and was one of the Americans featured in the 1962 Venice Biennale. MacIver’s ability to capture the spirit of her subject, as well as her keen observation and confidence with paint, made her lyrical paintings ideal works for inclusion in Duncan Phillips’s collection.