Home » Blog » Butterfly in Flight: Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Synchromism

Butterfly in Flight: Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Synchromism

Flight of the Butterfly No. 1 by Stanton Macdonald-Wright
Flight of the Butterfly No. 1 by Stanton Macdonald-Wright(1955), North Carolina Museum of Art. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

I grew up in Canada, and prefer going north in the summer, but Stratoz and I made a rare venture south for vacation.  We discovered the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, which reveals more delight around each partial wall, a maze to enjoy rather than get lost in.  The painting Flight of the Butterfly No. 1 by Stanton Macdonald-Wright caught my eye right away with the blocks of color and the spiral shape.  To see the whole painting, plus more of the collection, check out Amy Looks Closer: North Carolina Museum of Art.

 Stanton Macdonald-Wright, 1948 / Robert Bruce Inverarity, photographer. Robert Bruce Inverarity papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Stanton Macdonald-Wright, 1948 / Robert Bruce Inverarity, photographer. Robert Bruce Inverarity papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Macdonald-Wright named his painting style Synchromism “with color” as Symphony is “with sound,” and envisioned color as akin to music, not needing to be tethered to a literal interpretation of the world.  He imagined a scale of colors, which could be orchestrated like musical notes.  Often there was a central vortex out of which the other colors arose. The orange in the center of Flight of the Butterfly is bursting with sound against the blue-violet.  I make mosaic spirals and something about Macdonald-Wright’s unwinding center resonates.

The American Magazine 1928 with a story by S.S.Van Dine(pen name of Willard Huntington Wright)
The American Magazine 1928 with a Philo Vance story by S.S.Van Dine(pen name of Willard Huntington Wright)

Macdonald-Wright was given his first name, Stanton, in honor of women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and he hyphenated his middle and last names to avoid the constant question of whether he was related to Frank Lloyd Wright.  His older brother, Willard Huntington Wright, wrote the Philo Vance detective novels under the pen name S. S. Van Dine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *