Born in 1891, American artist Earl Kerkam was a modernist who was lauded by notable colleagues of the day including Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston. He was devoted to painting, particularly inspired by Cubists and post-Impressionist Paul Cezanne. Kerkam did not achieve significant public prominence in his lifetime but is now critically acclaimed.
Once a successful commercial artist, he left the field to study and paint full-time. Kerkam studied art in Pennsylvania and New York, and later in Paris academies. He returned to America during the Great Depression. During the early 1930s, Kerkam was the art editor for Progress magazine. He later worked as an artist for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), along with de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. His modernist works depict primarily still life and figures, including self-portraits. Kerkam’s paintings have been shown at museums and galleries across the country. Before his death in 1965, he taught at the New York Studio School.