Saturday, June 15, 2013

Contemporary Genre Painting

Susan Lichtman "Plein Air Painters" 2012 Private Collection

Susan Lichtman (b.1959) is a true contemporary genre painter, a painter of everyday life.  Almost all Lichtman's work is painted in a domestic setting, with porches, balconies and kitchens being the most painted-in rooms. As an mother-artist myself, the typical houshold brouhaha and bric-a-brac all seems very familiar. I marvel at Lichtman's daring in setting up her easel right in the the center of the whole vortex of family life. In this her work reminds us, inevitably of Fairfield Porter, yet I get the feeling that Porter's works were far more posed, that people stopped and life was suspended when he painted the dining room table or posed a daughter on a porch chair. In Lichtman's work you can feel the hum of busy lives swirling around the artist's canvas and being captured in snatches and starts in mid-current.

Susan Lichtman "Artist and Baby" 1997  Private Collection
Her work is fascinating to me in that although the subjects are loosely painted nevertheless a definite feeling of personal character is evoked, and while the pieces are often painted in a narrow range of value, great depths and changes of light sweeping across interiors are sometimes (when wanted)  achieved. Lichtman says “I think my idea of beauty in painting has to do with the tension between the depiction of deep space and the properties of shape and surface. I see that tension in interior paintings of artists I love best, from Roman wall painting to De Hooch, Vuillard, Bonnard, and Gwen John. Sunlight or lamplight juxtaposed with shadows add to the complexity of shapes. I am interested in how light can divert attention away from figures and slow down the reading of the imagery.” It is perhaps of some interest to note that the artist's own name, Lichtman, means "light one" in translation. A highly appropriate moniker for a true painter of light.

Lichtman studied at Brown University and received her MFA from Yale University. She currently teaches at Brandeis University. She is represented by Gross McCleaf Gallery and by Lenore Gray Fine Art. The artist's website can be seen here.

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