1948-1954 American Period

Elie Borgrave shared his time between Brussels, Paris and New York. Face with the difficult European reconstruction, he decided to immigrate to USA.

His mother, Ruth Snyder, was American and part of his mother's family, rich and wealthy, was living in Pennsylvania.

His mother's uncle, Charlemagne Tower Jr. (1848-1923) had heritated the mining and railroad business from his father,Charlemagne Tower Sr. In 1880, he was president of the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad before becoming US Ambassador to Germany and Russia.

In march 1948, Geer and Bram van Velde exhibited at Samuel Kootz Gallery in New York. They became very friendly from this period. Geer van Velde work influenzes him from the beginning.


Elie Borgrave met a lot of important people in the closed circle of art galleries, especially Mrs Eleanor Ward, Director of the Stable Gallery (924 Seventh Avenue) who will become a very good friend. The Stable shows helped the New York school of the 1950s, and il may have been in the context of this exhibition that Borgrave came to know Jackson Pollock, Willem and Elaine de kooning etc,.

Also, he frequented the very well known galleries such as Nierendorf Gallery. Karl Nierendorf (1889-1947)German-American, set up his gallery in 1936. He was a collector and art dealer.

At his death, the Guggenheim Museum bought all his collections (including 150 works by Paul Klee).

1949 : FIRST EXHIBITION in New York, he showed his paintings at the New Art Circle with the support of J.B. Neumann (1887-1961) in his gallery (41East 57th street)JB Neumann

1950 CEB et JB Neumann Stonington                                 1950  C Elie avec son galeriste Israel Ber Neumann 1887-1961   Elie Borgrave with J.B. Neumann                             

 1948 C Elderen Oil on canvas 275 x 405 cm 1.200 ppp Ph Franck Raymond Stonington Coll. AB                    1948  COil on canvas 1.200 ppp Stonington             1948 C Stonington 1.200 ppp

1948 "Elderen" Oil on canvas          1948 "Elderen" Oil on canvas    1948 "Elderen" Oil on canvas

27,5 x 40,5 cm

Photographs by Franck Raymond Stonington


The birth of his daughter pushed the family to move to the port of Stonington, Connecticut (two hours driving from New-York).

He settled in a house, combining home and studio

.IMG 1579    1948 C Sketch book D Black ink 205 x 17 cm Coll. AB 26  1948 C Sketch book D Ink on paper 21 x 17 cm 27 

                                                          Sketch book lead  pencil 21 x 17 cm

Abstraction is there from the start. Even in figurations of Stonington, deaf non figurative temptation. Behind this figuration, solid abstract colors, system colors that coordinate announce constuctions plans. His very personal work can have affinities with other artists such as Geer Van Velde, then Kandisky and Poliakoff. His way of putting colors creates depth ans special texture. He is imprevious to what is happening around him and does not want to be locked in a system, specially the young New-York School.

  1948 C Elderen  Oil on canvas 95 x 82 cm acquisition 26.09.2014 Coll. AB DxO                   Elderen 49 Oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm on the back signed Elie Borgrave 49

 "Elderen" Oil on canvas 95 x 82 cm Coll.AB                                                           "Elderen"Oil on canvas 81 x 65 cm Coll.RL

                                                                                                                             IMG 8117 DxO On the back

The following year, he created a Modern Art Summerschool in Stonington. He loved teaching and wanted to express the philosophy and the way he was painting.

"My thesis is to find this joint mind-matter through the subconscious of each.Through my work, I reveal the psychological, ethical and intellectual circumstances. Starting from a diagram or chart base composition which is the subconscious and which corresponds to an inner necessity of the moment. Art is located at the intersection of a statement and a fact, a thing said and technical. Every true artist is obsessed with the proposal that wants and needs to find the proper technique to his statement in his message. Picasso cubism had to find to talk about the eternal, Permeke had repudiated Impressionism to speak of the earth, Miro had to abandon cubism to find a suitable language neo-infantilism that enchanted...."

This first period allows him to find schematics and apply the principles of plastic where everything is relative.

In the tradition of cubism, it was a representative justification painting which will be necessary to release. "It is precisely this freedom that allowed me to internalize my painting later"

"Stylization is interference in the natural geometry and a way from the representation of the snap shot to work towards the eternal, on the Greekside, the Renaissance, Impressionism, on the other, Egypt, Byzantium, Cubism and some contemporary artists."


In 1950, his signature hesitates between "Elderen" and "Borgrave" and he decides to choose the greek sigma "Σ" as Elie, followed by the year of the creation.

1950 march Stonington    E 49 Elderen 77 x 92 cm
Stonington's studio "Elderen" 1949 Gouache on paper 13 x 16 cm Coll. AB


 E 50 3 300 ppp    E 52 92 x 77 cm Oil on canvas  Light yellow and blue on light grey and grey background

"Σ 50" Oil on canvas 100 x 80 cm Coll. Bb 

"Σ 52" Oil on canvas 92 x 77 cm Coll. AB

 First work identified with only "Σ" as signature


One of his favorite themes was wife and home.It is available here in different forms :


See the Gallery 1950

E 50 Elderen Ink on paper Sher mother 1945 C Elderen Oil on canvas on cardboard 805 x 755 cm Coll. AO - 
"Elderen 50" Ink on paper "Woman and home" coll.N&SB "Elderen" 1950 Oil on canvas on board 80,5 x 75,5 cm Coll. AO
E 49 Elderen Ink on paper E 51 Elderen  Sepia felt -drawing- 38 x 45  
"Elderen 49" Ink on paper 38 x 21 cm Coll AB "Elderen 51" Sepia felt on paper 38 x45 cm Coll AB


The port of Stonington inspired him and he designed many sketches with black or brown felt.


                        1954 aug. St. 1954 3 Août Stonington C 1954 Aug. St. 2
   "Σ 54 Reconciliation in greys" in the center                                                                         Studio in Stonington : behind a painting exhibited at the Stable Gallery
E 54 Stonington sepia felt on paper  49 x 66 E 54 Brown felt on paper  642 x 50 E 54 Black felt on paper 32 x 255 cm
"Σ 54" Brown felt on paper 64,2 x 50 cm Coll. AB "Σ 54" Brown felt on paper 64,2 x 50 cm Coll. AB

"Σ 54" Black felt on paper 32 x 25,5 cm Coll. AB

E 53 Oil on paper 40 x 29 cm    
                                                        "Σ 53" Oil on paper 40 x 29 cm Coll. EH
E 54   32 x  255 cmIMG 1669     E 54 C Stable Gallery Reconciliation of Greys 122 x 152 cm    7.Unsigned Stonington
"Σ 54" Felt on paper 32 x 25,5 cm cm Coll. N&S B.
"Σ 54"  Reconciliation of the Greys" Oil on panel 152 x 122 cm exhibited at the Stable Gallery N°4
"Σ 54" Oil on canvas exhibited at the Stable Gallery


The work of Elie Borgrave is atypical.

It is marked by stylistic signs characteristic of the post cubist time.
His work appears chronologically shifted in relation to the development of the artistic movements of that period. The fact that he is self-taught has forced him to remain in this post-cubist period close to Geer Van Velde and Braque.

But at that time the New York School wanted to express the opposite of the European message signified by the white monochrome of Rauschenberg, which was presented at the Stable Gallery in 1953 and supported by John Cage, a musician who advocated that "silence is a True note ".

His paintings express both a past and a reassuring modernity that must be shown to a demanding clientele in New York. It is therefore exposed to the Stable Gallery under the aegis of Eleanor Ward, and in many places in the United States.

His painting reflects an intellectual, almost mystical approach which tends to show a search to absolute. The values of lines and colors oppose and join in the cosmos. He spent his entire life towards this goal. He thought as he paints, questions and must constantly question.

Books of sketches : Elie Borgrave's writings

"My work is abstraction that it seeks to express itself through reports, to the detriment of any representation. You can compare it to music without lyrics. I wanted to organize surfaces, colors and values to arrive at a state mentor expression beyond the decorative effect. The statement I wish to make may be summed up by the words Order, Harmony, Peace"

"The problem of Aristotelianism as opposed to Existentialism in our approach to painting is becoming urgent. So called action painting is intimately tied up with the result. Part of the struggle of the artists (unless he is very strong again) is to always help his complexion insight that he may never arm from this intended him. In this context I am essentially a "poetic constructivist" I must never forget it. My pictures are tending to take on a forced and agitated look. This is due to the insistance on trying to oppose strong colours or conversely an unwillingness of incapacity tu use greys. By using strong colours in the early stages one exhausts our armament."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "Σ March 53"

"To fall back on the description is to evade the dialectic. In the static the dialectic is the application of the law of architecture, in the dynamic the application of the law growth. It is synonymous with logical continuity"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             "March 54"


 «Mr Hilton Kramer of the NY Times stated, some years ago, that a “persuasive theory” is crucial to the understanding of modern art.

The statement is, of course, dated but perhaps a short exposé of what I have attempted in my painting may not be amiss. It is so, to speak, music without words. It is an arrangement of colours, values and surfaces attempting to make a statement by means of the effect produced by serial arrangement.

If I have eschewed representation I have, on the other hand, sought a form of symbolism. For example, many of my canvasses consist of two similar and interlocking forms that are simply the Chinese symbol of the Ying and the Yang, the complementary male and female elements in nature."


"I am also obsessed by the Triad, the number 3, the perfect number, for I have long been interested in the esoteric doctrines of the East.
I have discovered that there is a close relationship between esthetics, geometry and metaphysics.

Stylisation is the beginning of geometry and the greek ikon is nearer to eternity than a painting by Renoir.

I have attempted to use the minimum means to attain the maximum result, which is the essence of style. To that extent, my art is “minimal” but minimal as a mean not as an end.

A top art critic over here has likened my recent work to the Gregorian Chant. In this age of chaotic liberation it may bring a welcome change.”

"My life is perfectly clear again & I must not let myself be deflected again by criticism either implicit or explicit.
I must do what I have started without deviation, and at least profit from accumulated experience in a certain kind"

His first personnal exhibition at the Stable Gallery in 1955 January. The Stable Gallery was an Art Gallery established in 1953 and closed in 1970. Located West 58th Street, it showed controversial new artists in the 1950's and 1960's. Created by Alan Groh, it was managed by its Director, Mrs Eleanor Ward.

Back of Dark Inside
The Stable Gallery records consist mainly of artist files that contain biographical notes, correspondence, price list, printed matter and photographs of art work and artists. Most Stable Gallery administrative and financial information, as well as related printed matter is included with the famous Stable Annuals held between 1953 and 1957. A transcript of the Archives of American Art in 1972. A history of Stable Gallery with personal reminiscences written in 1971 by Alan Groh, Ward's assistant from 1956-1970. Photographs (Series 5) are of art work and exhibitions installations, Eleanor Ward friends and family.



Works showed in 1955 January


E 54 Drion     E 54 C Oil on panel  91 x 121 cm Stable Gallery Oh Peter A. Juley  Son NY City
"Σ 54"   Stable Gallery Coll. OD
54"  Stable Gallery Oil on panel 91 x 121 cm Photograph by Peter A. Juley NY City
E 54 Stable Gallery 2 bis 
E 54 N 5 The black Inside Stable Gallery Oil on panel 121 x 134 cm Coll Fruchter. Anvers.
"Σ  54" Oil on canvas Stable Gallery Photograph
"Σ 54"  "The black Inside" Oil on panel 137 x 121 cm Stable Gallery n° 5 Coll. F.
1.E 54 Oil on cardboard 122 x 1675 cm

"Σ 54" Oil on cardboard 167,5 x 122 cm Coll. AF

After the birth of his daughters, Semira (1949) and Nicole (1951) he stayed in Stonington till 1954 with the family. He naturalized american.

He decided to adopt his new simplified name : Elie Borgrave

Certificat de naturalisation 11.06.1954 Elie Charles Borgrave

Many exhibitions in USA :

Pennsylvania Academy

Cincinnati Museum

Saint-Louis Annual

Wesley University (Connecticut)


At the end of 1954, missing Europe, his search of absolute pushed him to come back.

All his works of this period speak the language of the sublimation of matter in favor of the spirit. The concept of mind-seal material, revealed through Cubism, is more and more present.

We are witnessing a magical balance between the material and the immaterial. These are elements from nature to create autonomous structures composed of long thought forms. The motive of the research is to synthesize the passionate aspiration to resolve interne contradictions. He invented new dynamic forms, both the color and the richness of the material.

He felt the colors and light in an eloquent disposal to achieve this eternal absolute. He crossed at this time a mystical crisis demonstrated by a latent anxiety. It reflected the abstraction in a quest for greater harmony.


Carnet de croquis écrit du 2.02.54 1 Carnet de croquis Ecrit du 2.02.54 2
1954 Sketches books

“One is stopped by a failure or an unwillingness to choose between alternatives at a certain point. I am at present confronted by the dilemma colour light. Now the emotional efficiency of colour is far greater than that of light and I must choose colour.

I have been trying to work with colours that are too far apart with the result that everything is jerky or heurté. This has also aggravated the colour value problem to a considerable extent.

By establishing the large areas from the start one has already committed oneself to a construct wist gesture which can stop the flow of picture irremediably. 2.2.54 “

Carnet de croquis pastel gras 197 x 123 2 Carnet de croquis pastel gras 197 x 123
              1954 Sketches books : oil pastels