Philip Pearlstein: The Dispassionate Body was an exhibition of provocative work by one of the most important American realist painters from the second half of the twentieth century. Organized by Peter Spooner, Curator at the Tweed Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, the exhibition included sixteen large-scale nude paintings and a selection of objects that the artist collects and incorporates into his paintings.
‘Pearlstein is an innovative and significant artist in part because he created realistic figure paintings at a time when abstract painting dominated the American art world,’ explains Brian H. Peterson, Senior Curator at the Michener Art Museum. ‘This challenging exhibition questions our typical ideas of beauty and meaning in art. Pearlstein is not concerned with the human figure as the bearer of symbolic and cultural narrative; he is interested in a more dispassionate, playful observation of the human form in complex visual interactions with other bodies, objects, etc. Pearlstein paints what he sees—no more, no less.’
Pearlstein, born in Pittsburgh in 1924, first became a published artist while in his high school’s art club. His painting of a merry-go-round won a Scholastic MagazineNational Art Contest and was reproduced in Life magazine in 1941. After World War II—during which he was trained as a technical artist—Pearlstein studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh through the GI Bill and served as the art director for the school’s engineering publication.
From there, Pearlstein moved to New York City with his classmate and friend, Andy Warhol. Pearlstein received his Master’s degree in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and began his teaching career at the Pratt Institute in New York. It was there that he joined a group of faculty that met on Sunday evenings to draw models in a studio. Although he started as an expressionistic landscape painter, these sessions led to his career as a figurative painter, creating works of startling realism, with an unsentimental emotional tone.
Pearlstein currently lives in New York City. His work is featured in over 60 collections in the United States, including such prestigious institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Art Institute of Chicago. He has received many awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, National Academy of Design Award in New York, and a Fulbright Hayes Fellowship in Italy. He has also served as the President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.