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Francis Cunningham

Francis Cunningham

Text by Christopher Knight
Text by Edward Lifson
Text by John Walsh
Text by Valentina De Pasca
Text by Regina Hawkins-Balducci


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  • A new take on perception and preconceptions about the unclothed body and how, through art, the naked becomes the nude
Full Description

While the art world was turning its eyes towards abstract art and action painting, Cunningham's interest in figurative art and the human form never waned. This is the underlying reason for his lukewarm reception, keeping him out of the limelight, although this is not to say his art was second rate. In a sense, this marginal status was a blessing in disguise, enabling Cunningham to broaden and develop his thinking on his personal artistic sensibility and thus on the central role played by 'colour-spot' painting, the technique borrowed from his master Edwin Dickinson, and on the importance of teaching, of which he had personal experience at the New Brooklyn School of Life, Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture and at the New York Academy of Art.

The book chronicles Cunningham's development from his earliest, small, and mostly abstract canvases characterised by large colour fields suggesting landscapes, to his later figurative work, in which the study of anatomy takes over, only to give way, as if coming full circle, to paintings containing large empty spaces and a drastically reduced number of elements.

Most of Cunningham's paintings are large and depict nude subjects, sometimes portrayed alone and sometimes in triptychs. A feature of his works from this 'second period' is what might be called their 'vertical' nature, which contrasts strongly with his very last, mostly still life paintings, which stand out for their horizontal orientation. The human figure has virtually disappeared and Cunningham seems almost to have returned to the preoccupations of his youth.

The artist's many facets are explored in essays by art historians and art critics, including Christopher Knight, Edward Lifson, John Walsh, and Valentina De Pasca, as well through the reminiscences of his favourite model, Regina Hawkins-Balducci.

About the Author
Francis Cunningham is an American figurative painter known for working across three genres - nude, landscape and still-life - and for being an influential master instructor. He co-founded the New Brooklyn School of Life, Painting, Drawing & Sculpture, Inc. (1980 1983), and the New York Academy of Art in 1983 with sculptors Barney Hodes and Stuart Pivar. Christopher Knight is chief art critic for the Los Angeles Times. A three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism (1991, 2001 and 2007), Knight received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Art Journalism from the Rabkin Foundation in 2020, and the 1997 Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism from the College Art Association. Edward Lifson is an award-winning writer on art, architecture, design, and culture. He created and hosted a public radio show on the arts called Hello Beautiful! Lifson was also a U.S., foreign, and war correspondent, and domestic and foreign bureau chief for National Public Radio. John Walsh is Director Emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum. He served as Director from 1983 until October 2000. He is the author of many articles and catalogues on Dutch paintings of the 17th century, and of several books including Jan Steen, The Drawing Lesson. Valentina De Pasca is a historian of ancient art. She obtained a PhD in art history and medieval archaeology from Milan University with a thesis titled Intercultural Exchanges and Interactions with the Eastern Mediterranean Area in Lombard Art in Italy (16th-17th Century): the Case of the Disk Fibulae, which she defended in 2018.
5 Continents Editions
23rd Dec 2020
World excluding Italy
280 mm x 240 mm
260 Pages
222 color
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