“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” - Oscar Wilde
A Portrait of the Artist
Acrylic and pastel on canvas, in a floater frame
How does an artist handle individualism in figurative art? Our #DiebenkornDraws series this week looks at two tightly framed female faces, from a series of miniature paintings the artist referred to as his heads. “It has been remarked upon, though perhaps not resoundingly, that Diebenkorn during the entire span of the figurative period struggled with—or, more accurately, deliberated on—the question of representing the face,” wrote Jane Livingston in the artist’s catalogue raisonné.
He became preoccupied with the face in this small group of heads and dealt more directly with the question of representation. “What the paintings never entirely address is classical physiognomy,” continues Livingston. “The likeness of the individual face is certainly something Diebenkorn could create: witness his many portraits in ink or watercolor on paper; consider the dozens of likenesses of Phyllis and others. But in the context of Diebenkorn’s most replete, fully calculated figurative works on canvas, the individuated physiognomy simply doesn’t take form.” His paintings with less detail of individuality, including the gouache drawing shown here, are “far more psychologically complex, fraught as it is with multiple implications.”
Untitled, c. 1957–63, gouache on paper, 12 7/8 x 9 3/4 in. (32.7 x 24.8 cm), Collection of the Richard @DiebenkornFoundation
Quote taken from Jane Livingston in the “Richard Diebenkorn: The Catalogue Raisonné,” Vol. 3. Published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, in association with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, 2016
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