Post 1800’s Realism: Philip Pearlstein


Artist: Philip Pearlstein                                           Artist: Philip Pearlstein
Title: Female Model on Platform Rocker             Title: Two Nudes
Date: 1977-1978                                                         Date: 1964
Medium: Oil on canvas                                           Medium: Oil on canvas
Museum: Brooklyn Mus. Acc. #: 79.17                 Museum: Brooklyn Mus. Acc. #: 79.193

Philip M. Pearlstein was born on May 24, 1924 in Pittsburgh, PA, to David and Libby Kalser Pearlstein. During the Great Depression, his father sold chickens and eggs to support the family. As a child, his parents also supported his interest in art, sending him to Saturday morning classes at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art. In 1942, at the age of 18, two of his paintings won a national competition sponsored by Scholastic Magazine, and were reproduced in color in Life magazine. He enrolled at Carnegie Institute of Technology’s art school, in Pittsburgh but after one year he was drafted by the US Army to serve during World War II. In this role, he learned printmaking and the screen printing process, and subsequently was stationed in Italy making road signs. In 1946, sponsored by the GI Bill, he returned to Carnegie Institute, and first met Andy Warhol. He was attracted to Pearlstein because of his notoriety in the school and having been featured in Life magazine. Pearlstein and Warhol moved to New York City, at first sharing an eighth-floor walk-up tenement apartment on St. Mark’s Place at Avenue A. During this time Pearlstein painted a portrait of Warhol, now held by the Whitney Museum of American Art. Philip enrolled in the Masters in Art History program at New York University Institute of Fine Arts. His thesis was on artist Francis Picabia, evaluating Cubism, Abstract art, Dada and Surrealism, graduating in 1955.
Pearlstein belongs to the art movement that is Contemporary art. This just means “art that has been and continues to be created during our lifetimes.” In other words, contemporary to us. You can expect a certain amount of overlapping between “Contemporary” and “Modern” art in your lifetime. A good rule of thumb is: Modern Art: Art from the Impressionists around 1880 up until the 1960’s or ’70’s. Contemporary Art: Art from the 1960’s or ’70’s up until this very minute. Prior to the 19th century, artists were most often commissioned to make artwork by wealthy patrons, or institutions like the church. Much of this art depicted religious or mythological scenes that told stories and were intended to instruct the viewer. During the 19th century, many artists started to make art about people, places, or ideas that interested them, and of which they had direct experience. With the publication of psychologist Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) and the popularization of the idea of a subconscious mind, many artists began exploring dreams, symbolism, and personal iconography as avenues for the depiction of their subjective experiences.


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