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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Phillip Pearlstein

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Phillip Pearlstein: May 24,1924-****...United States

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania "New-Realism" artist Philip Pearlstein is known for his nude figures that are painted by observation only. Many so-called photorealistic artists have moved to the use of photographs to aid in the practice of creating artworks, a practice that Pearlstein rejects. "There will always be those who want to make paintings of the human form with all its parts all where they should be, in spite of progress." He has been bad mouthed by some ignorant critics for his use of the nude. Some people feel that any picture of a person without cloths is obscene. This is ridiculous. There is a clear distinction between nude and naked. Naked implies weakness, vulnerability, and indecency; where as the nude is a classic idea that embodies power, beauty, and the perfection of the human form. His works of art are not blatantly sensual or pornographic. Nor is he glamorizing the model. He treats the nude as a landscape, a part of the natural world, which should be admired and is a work of art in it own right. "I have saved the figure from its tormented agonized condition given it by expressionistic artists, and the cubist dissectors and distorters of the figure, and at the other extreme, I have rescued it from the pornographers, and their easy exploitations of the figure for its sexual implications."

The bulk of his early training took place at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, enrolling in classes while still in high school. "I started doing art seriously more or less in 10th and 11th grade... We had a terrific teacher." He explored many ways to make art. Everything from social realism, pre-pop, abstract expressionism, and so on. After high school, he became a full time student until he was drafted into the Army in 1943. In the Training Aids Unit at Camp Blanding, Florida, he produced signs, charts, and diagrams for the assembly of weapons and was introduced to the media of the screen-printing process. After the war Pearlstein re-enrolled at Carnegie and earned his master's degree in art history. In 1947 he shared a barn-studio in Pennsylvania with Andy Warhol, Arthur Elias and Dorothy Cantor (whom he married in 1950). In New York City, he and Andy also were roommates for a short time. "At the end of the first week (in New York City) Andy had major illustration work from Seventeen Magazine…I became an assistant to Ladislav Sutnar, a graphic designer."

He then worked as an art instructor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and Brooklyn College. "I taught a combination of art history and studio art; students would take one image and translate it into 12 major stylistic ideas. I taught the grammar of art, rather than chasing after one style. It taught students to define a problem, and to be aware of what's been done in the past. One of the failures of the contemporary art world is that so many ideas have historical precedence, and yet some young artist comes along and everyone calls it original. Our century comes out of the Italian Futurists, who haven't received as much credit as they should. There's also been a big influence from Oriental Art, Pre-Colombian Art, and African Art."

His artworks are in galleries around the world and have received a plethora of awards. Pearlstein is one of our world's greatest living artists. Personally, I always think about how much art an artist at his level creates annually. In high school, students in art all year will make about twenty major works and fifty sketchbook drawings. In an AP class, it around twenty five finished works and sketches that help create those works. In college it becomes a even higher quantity of work. Pearlstein produces about ten works a year, selling his larger works for $150,000. His advice to young artists is: "You have to decide what kind of artist you want to be. You have a choice. Don’t jump on the first bandwagon. Don’t try to be like everyone else. You have to keep making an effort to show your work and to meet your peers in whatever art scene you’re involved in, because they become your chief critics. Or supporters. They’re the real influence on the structure of the art world. The reputation of an artist in the 50s and 60s came from the seriousness with which their work was taken and discussed by other artists. It can't be built up by dealers or collectors, though they try. It's the work itself that eventually grabs attention- not the shenanigans of the artist."

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063