Figuration Never Died: New York Painterly Painting, 1950-1970
On view through February 14, 2021
Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
Brattleboro exhibit shows mid-century figurative painting in new light.
Textbook descriptions of 20th-century art movements typically trace a progression from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field, followed by Pop Art as a reaction to Color Field. But a new exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC), “Figuration Never Died: New York Painterly Painting, 1950-1970,” reveals an untold part of the story, highlighting a generation of New York artists who absorbed the lessons of Abstract Expressionism but never abandoned figurative painting.
Curator Karen Wilkin, an author, art critic, and head of art history at the New York Studio School, has selected 20 works by ten artists who played a significant role in this movement: Robert De Niro Sr., Lois Dodd, Jane Freilicher, Paul Georges, Grace Hartigan, Wolf Kahn, Alex Katz, Albert Kresch, Paul Resika, and Anne Tabachnick. Many of them were students of Hans Hofmann, and several had close working relationships with each other. In an essay written to accompany the exhibit, Wilkin writes that while many young artists of the time looked to Willem de Kooning for inspiration, the artists in this exhibit invented “a new kind of ‘painterly’ painting more indebted to Edouard Manet’s early work than to de Kooning.”
Grace Hartigan, “Giftwares” (1955), oil and charcoal on canvas, 63 x 81 inches, Collection of the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger