Art: Unfurled Banners

To many of his suburban Washington, D.C., acquaintances in the 1950s, Morris Louis Bernstein was simply a peevish, chain-smoking, introverted art teacher. About all the world knew was that he was married to a high school principal, never discussed what he was doing during the eleven hours and more a day that he spent in his studio. One of the few painters who gained admission to his inner sanctum reported with awe, "There isn't a goddam brush in the place." Nonetheless, under his painting name of Morris Louis, Bernstein gained a reputation in Manhattan art circles. Since his death from lung...

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