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Indepth Arts News:

"Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907–1975"
2002-10-05 until 2003-01-19
Frye Art Museum
Seattle, WA, USA

This fall the Frye will be the first venue for a major retrospective of works by American Realist, Fairfield Porter (1907–1975). He was hailed by the poet and art critic John Ashbery in 1983 as “perhaps the major American artist of this century.” The exhibition Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907–1975, includes paintings, drawings, and watercolors by this influential artist. Relying on the unexpected mystery of everyday personal experience, Porter created a body of work that beautifully portrays contemporary American family life. Biographical in its focus, the exhibition draws extensively on Porter’s personal correspondence, poetry, critical writings, notebooks and published works. 

Porter’s achievements are highly regarded within the art world today, but little known outside it. His extraordinarily intimate paintings, however, continue to have a wide-ranging and immediate appeal to viewers across the country. This exhibition of Porter’s life story brings his visual and written work together for the first time. Ultimately, Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907–1975 is a colorful and inspiring celebration of an American artist.

Besides being an innovative painter, Porter was also a prolific poet and art critic. His immersion in art history and theory informed not only his criticism but his painting as well. His work as a writer, critic, poet, and painter is remarkably consistent and is best considered as a single, complex, lifelong project in which the artist perpetually sought to define for himself his own relation to the world.

Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907–1975 explores Porter’s wealthy upbringing; his education at Harvard; his youthful travels in Europe and Stalinist Russia; his marriage to poet Anne Channing Porter; his involvement with Marxism and socialism during the 1930s and 1940s; and his work as a painter and critic in New York from the 1930s until his death in 1975.

In his painting Porter forged a distinctly American vision out of two disparate styles: one, intimate and representational; and the other, colorful and abstract. Porter, perhaps more than any other American painter of the 20th century, formulated vital images of family and home that are deeply personal. The exhibition’s curator, Justin Spring, who is the author of the seminal Porter biography, Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art (published by Yale University Press, 2000), has assembled revealing images of Porter’s home life, as well as portraits of family and friends - including individuals who have since become the foremost literary, artistic, and intellectual figures of their generation.

Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907–1975 was originated by AXA Gallery, New York, and curated by Justin Spring. The four-city exhibition tour, which continues through 2004, is organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles. The exhibition will later travel to Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Alabama; Portland Museum of Art, Maine; and the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas.

Fairfield Porter,
Lizzie at the table, 1958,
oil on canvas,
37 x 45 in.
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
bequest of Arthur M. Bullowa, 1993.
Copyright, Estate of Fairfield Porter.

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