A retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of an immensely gifted artist who died at an early age is bound to be an experience of special poignancy. The more we admire the work, the more likely we are to be haunted by thoughts of what the artist might have accomplished in the course of a normal life span. For in the perspective of his foreshortened career, his every solid achievement acquires a sort of double existence for us. There is the work itself, in all of its manifest quality, and there is also the possibility that accompanies it. To the extent that such artists make a difference in the art of their time, we seem to suffer their loss anew at each encounter with their best efforts.

In the case of Morton Livingston Schamberg, whose work is currently the subject of a traveling retrospective exhibition,[1] there is the additional factor of the artist’s...