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Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907-1975


Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907-1975 is a major retrospective of work by this compelling and influential Maine artist, and the first exhibition to bring his visual and written work together. Biographical in its focus, the exhibition features Porter's paintings and works on paper and also draws extensively on his personal correspondence, poetry, critical writings, notebooks, and published works. A large-scale photographic reproduction of Porter's lost socialist mural is also included in the exhibition. Many of the works in the exhibition were inspired by Porter's visits to his family's summer home on Great Spruce Head Island in Maine. Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907-1975 is on view June 19, 2003 through September 7, 2003 at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine.

Fairfield Porter was a fascinating and complex American painter who produced Realist work in the midst of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He was hailed by the poet and art critic John Ashbery in 1983 as "perhaps the major American artist of this century." 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 paintings 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; his involvement with Marxism and socialism during the 1930s and 1940s; and his work as a painter and critic from the 1930s until his death in 1975.

In his paintings Porter forged a distinctly American vision out of two disparate styles: the first intimate, sensual, and representational, and the second colorful, gestural, and abstract. Relying on the unexpected mystery of everyday, personal experience, Porter created a body of work that beautifully portrays contemporary American family life. Porter, perhaps more than any other American painter of the late 20th century, formulated vital images of family and home that were both deeply personal and iconic. 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 the most 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.

Twenty-seven years after his death, Porter's intellectual achievements remain highly regarded within the art world but little known outside it. His extraordinarily intimate paintings, however, continue to have a wide-ranging and immediate appeal to viewers across the country. Ultimately, Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907-1975 is a colorful and inspiring celebration of an artist whose achievements continue to exert their influence in the art world.

Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907-1975 was originated by AXA Gallery, New York, New York, and is curated by Justin Spring. The four-city exhibition tour is organized by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions (CATE), Los Angeles and includes: Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (Oct. 5, 2002-Jan. 5, 2003), Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama (Feb. 1, 2003-April 20, 2003), Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine (June 19-Sept. 7, 2003), McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas (Oct. 5, 2003-Jan. 4, 2004).

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