- Pearlstein, Philip: Since 1983Our PickBy Robert Storr
- Philip Pearlstein's People, Places, ThingsBy Sims Patterson
Important Art by Philip Pearlstein
In this illustrative watercolour, Pearlstein focuses on three soldiers in different states of rest. This early work highlights Pearlstein's ability to provide a visual chronicle of a noteworthy time in his life. During his service in the army at the time of World War II, Pearlstein produced over 100 drawings and watercolours that documented his observations and experiences. Included in this body of works were numerous images of his fellow soldiers during their field exercises. Training in Florida (3 soldiers resting) is a visual recording of soldiers' different physical response to training. The figure propped against the tree with separated legs displays a more exhaustive state compared to the somewhat more relaxed position of his fellow soldier with crossed legs.
Artist and art critic Robert Ayers suggested that Pearlstein's 1943 studies of soldiers resting looked forward to the foreshortened prone figures with their splayed and overlapping limbs that characterize his best-known work. He further remarked that these early works remind us of what Pearlstein gradually stripped away from his art to arrive at the monumental figure works for which he is now celebrated.
Pearlstein further exhibits his attention to the figure in perspective in this neutral monochromatic watercolour on paper. It features a foreshortened nude male in a sparse environment lying on his left side, leaning on his elbow with his head turned away from the viewer. Portions of the model's body melds into the environment. The work reflects Pearlstein's interest in the nude body as a series of interlocking forms.
Untitled is an indication of the change in his works in the 1960s from abstracted and expressionistic figures to creating figurative works of studio models. Pearlstein has stated that he decided to turn away from abstraction and expressionism because he wanted to paint only what he saw in front of him (usually nude models) without stylistic editorializing.
Pearlstein's monochromatic wash on paper provides a bird's eye view of two nude female models in foreshortened, relaxed positions on a bed that has a bold curvilinear frame. This work is an example of the eventual development of his more complex, staged setups incorporating furniture and other objects into his compositions, and the extreme cropping of the image is a characteristic design element of his canvases.
The diagonal position of the figure near the foot of the bed mimics the directional flow of the bottom frame, and the crossed legs of the figure at the top of the bed is similar to the design of the top frame. This creates almost a marrying of the figures and the bed, as though Pearlstein is treating the bed and models as a combined object.
In an interview, Pearlstein shared that he sees his models as elements of design. This possibly accounts for the seemingly stark quality of the models, and their probable treatment as objects. Pearlstein's perspective suggests an intent to create art for the sole sake of visual experience without an assigned narrative. This piece signifies his contribution to nude portraiture, in widening the possibilities, approaches and aims of works in this genre.