9780300076370 / 0300076371

Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art


Publisher:Yale University Press



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About the book:

Fairfield Porter, the lyrical American painter of tense slices of family life, was an extraordinarily complex and conflicted person. Born in 1917, Porter finally achieved a measure of fame in the 1950s as part of the second wave of New York School artists--only to be eclipsed as a realist painter a few years later by the brashly ironic crew of pop artists.

Born into a patrician family, Porter lived most of his life on a dwindling trust fund, in a succession of sparsely furnished rural houses that he kept escaping to hang out with artists and writers in New York City. (He also wrote poetry and art criticism.) Although his political sympathies led him to dream of being a great muralist, his discovery of the intimate domestic scenes of Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard proved the key to his mature style.

Porter's immediate family populate many of his best paintings, yet he was the most ambivalent of family men. He had five children with his long-suffering wife, Anne, a poet who survives him, but skipped town when each one was born. To complicate things further, he discovered in midlife that he was in love with the poet James Schuyler, who became a perpetual houseguest long after the brief affair was over.

Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, by Justin Spring, is not the sort of art book you plop on the coffee table to browse "some day." Modestly sized and handsomely designed--with just enough good-quality reproductions (27 in color) to whet your appetite for the way Porter's seductive palette sets off his intensely isolated figures--this is a page-turner to read in bed. --Cathy Curtis

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