Art Healing and Friendship: The Doctor Albert Grokoest Collection
Born in 1917 in Lincoln, New Hampshire, Albert Grokoest graduated from Hamilton College and later received his MD from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York. Trained as a rheumatologist, he served on the staff at the College of Physicians and Surgeons for over 40 years, and retired as professor emeritus in 1989. Dr. Grokoest was as devoted to the arts as medicine. He was widely respected among his colleagues, students and friends as an accomplished violist and art collector, firmly believing that the power of art, music and poetry aided the process of human healing.
Although Dr. Grokoest practiced in New York City he never forgot his connection to New Hampshire. He often summered there and was a fiequent visitor to the Currier Gallery of Art. Dr. Grokoest's work with patients, his laboratory research in arthritis, and his teaching, all led to a deep belief in the connection between a patient's mind and body. He observed that emotional states such as anger, loneliness, isolation and fear of abandonment were often subconsciously manifested as physical illness. As an early advocate of a "holistic" approach to wellness, Dr. Grokoest emphasized the prevention of illness by teaching his patients to see themselves as whole systems and to acknowledge that their health could be influenced by their feelings and concerns.
In addition to Mark Rothko, Dr. Grokoest cultivated the friendship of many other artists, including Edwin and Mary Scheier, who lived in New Hampshire and whose works are well represented in the collection. Art, Healing and Friendship also includes works that Dr. Grokoest collected by other artists including Polish painter and printmaker Jan Lebenstein.
"Lebenstein created both abstract and representational works of great psychological power," said Spahr. "His ink, watercolor and gouache work Figure (Study for Dorsal View of Vertebrate), completed in 1963, appears skeletal in nature and thus may have been of special interest to Dr. Grokoest," said Spahr.
Other works in the collection include New York painter Jennings Tofel's 1958 oil painting A Time of Perplexity and several vibrant watercolors by Seattle artist and linguist Pehr Hallsten. "Hallsten was a long-time friend of abstract expressionist Mark Tobey," said Spahr. "His works are characterized by bright colors and scenes that often depicted childhood memories or favorite folk tales of his native Sweeden."
"Although Dr. Grokoest was often intrigued by artists whose work was out of the mainstream, or perhaps unrecognized by the art world, he saw in each of these works of art a human life in a relative state of wellness or illness," said Spahr. "His collection reflects his fascination with the power of art to unify and express the mind, body and soul. It is the hope and purpose of this exhibition to invite viewers to respond, as Doctor Grokoest loved for people to do...to offer their own diagnosis of the art works," Spahr concluded.
Art, Healing and Friendship: The Doctor Albert Grokoest Collection is open at The Currier Gallery of Art through December 14, 1998. The exhibition is supported by the Friends Fund and is accompanied by the video Nature's Cure created by Ken Browne Productions with the generous support of State Street Global Advisors.
From top to bottom: Alfred Maurer, Portrait of a Girl, 1929, oil on gesso board, photo: Dave Juvet; Jennings Tofel, A Time of Perplexity, 1958, oil on canvas, photo: Dave Juvet; Pehr Hallsten,Two Figures Exchanging a Pot, 1958, watercolor on paper, photo: Dave Juvet; Pehr Hallsten, Man in a Canoe in Landscape, 1953, watercolor on paper, photo: Dave Juvet; Bernard Walsh, Nightmare, undated, etching, photo: Dave Juvet; Jan Lebenstein, Figure (Study for Dorsal View of Vertebrate), 1963, ink, watercolor and gouache on paper; Ed Scheier, Adam and Eve and the Serpent, undated, lithograph, photo: Dave Juvet.
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