National Museum of Women in the Arts

Washington, DC



Painting in a Lonely Arena: Joyce Treiman and the Old Masters


A technical virtuoso and stylistic independent, 20th-century artist Joyce Treiman firmly adhered to the figurative tradition of the old masters, despite contemporary artistic movements that surrounded her. The result is an eclectic body of autobiographical work that explores life's transience, the wry comedy of human existence, the creative process, and her rightful place in an artistic lineage. Painting in a Lonely Arena: Joyce Treiman and the Old Masters, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) December 14, 1998-July 5, 1999, is a rare East Coast museum exhibition of some of this California artist's most poignant creations.

Rather than conform to the mid-century trend of abstraction, Treiman embraced her drawing skills and consistently worked in what she termed the "lonely arena" of figurative painting. Reflecting a tremendous knowledge and admiration of the artistic past, her paintings provide a portal through which her heroes travel to enter her 20th-century milieu. She includes a self-portrait in most of her works and often appears with artists she studied or collected, such as Giambattista Tiepolo, Thomas Eakins, and Claude Monet. Near the end of her career when she was diagnosed with lung cancer, Treiman shifted her focus from paintings submerged in history to themes of mortality laced with her dry humor.

The 12 large-scale paintings and three drawings included in the exhibition are from the late 1960s through the 1980s, a period when Treiman was considered a major force in the California art world. The exhibition will be on view in NMWA's Arkansas gallery, which is designated for first-time solo museum exhibitions of mature artists at the end of their careers.

Joyce Treiman (1922-1991) was raised in Evanston, Illinois, and frequently visited the nearby Art Institute of Chicago. Trained in painting and drawing, she earned her B.F.A. at the State University of Iowa in 1943. In 1960 she moved to Los Angeles, where she taught at several universities and assembled a loyal group of collectors and devoted students. Her work is included in the collections of many institutions, including The Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Painting in a Lonely Arena: Joyce Treiman and The Old Masters was organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts and curated by Associate Curator Jordana Pomeroy. The exhibition is made possible by a grant from the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation. Additional support is provided by the members of NMWA and other generous sponsors.

From top to bottom (click on thumbnail images to enlarge them): Monet and Me at the Venice Canals, 1977, oil on linen, 80 x 60 inches, BankAmerica Corporation Art Collection, San Francisco, (#40371); Self-Portrait in Titus's Hat, 1983, oil on canvas, 78 x 42 inches, collection of Kirby and Priscilla Smith; Thanatopsis, 1983, oil on canvas, 70 x 70 inches, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, gift of Harry W. Saunders, 1991.159; Anomie, 1969-70, oil on canvas, 70 x 70 inches, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, gift of an anonymous donor, 71.227

Read more about the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 10/18/10

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