Phoenix Art Museum

Phoenix, Arizona


Heroic Painting

Homage to Frank Lloyd Wright, Mark Tansey, 1964, oil on canvas,

Collection of The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

Through the progress of the 20th century, the image and concept of the hero has transformed from mythic historical figures to modern ordinary people. Heroic Painting, in Phoenix Art Museum's Steele Gallery May 16 through July 5, 1998, explores the evolving notion of the hero through very large-scale paintings of seven nationally recognized painters, united by their interest in redefining the concept of heroism. The exhibition was organized by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and curated by SECCA executive director Susan Lubowsky Talbot. Sarah Lee Corporation is the corporate sponsor for this exhibition.


In his Heroes and Hero-Worship, Thomas Carlyle provides the standard description of the Victorian hero: The hero serves "as god, as prophet, as priest, as king, as poet, as man of letters." But the Victorian ideal did not survive very far into the 20th century. The treatment of heroic themes in 20th century art is part of a long tradition. Dramatic, grand-scale history painting came of age in the 16th century, when it was considered the apex of artistic pursuit. Leading the viewer to high moral ground by depicting the heroic acts of mythical and religious figures, history painting was instructional - its heroes and their ideals were models for the common person. Right: Civil War, Bo Bartlett, 1994-95, oil on linen, courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W., New York

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rev. 11/26/10

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