College of Communications and Fine Arts Art Museum of the University of Memphis
Fairfield Porter

(Audio Commentary)

Fairfield Porter

American (Winnetka, Ill., 1907-1975, Southampton, N.Y.)

"Dog at the Door"


Fairfield Porter installation photo

The fourth child of a wealthy and progressively inclined family, Fairfield Porter completed Harvard College as an art history student. After a few years of traveling in Europe and visiting museums, he married and settled in New York, where for two decades he studied painting, worked for socialist causes and cared for his autistic son. During the depression, the family lived in his parent's home in Chicago until the death of his father, when they returned to New York. During World War II, Porter worked on industrial design projects for the Navy. While continuously developing his own craft as a painter, he began writing about art for Partisan Review in 1947, and in 1951 he became a regular reviewer for Art News and then for The Nation in 1959.

Fairfield Porter had his first solo show in 1952 at the age of 45 and exhibited regularly and frequently in galleries and museums for the rest of his life. His paintings were most influenced by the placid, comfortable domestic intimacy of the French artists Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard and, he claimed, the work of abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning. Although a realist at the time when realism was considered controversial, Porter's brushy, light-filled work is unlike any of the defined styles of mid-century America. Most of it captures scenes and the non-events of bucolic summer days on the Maine island owned by the extended Porter clan or in Fairfield Porter's home on Long Island, where he also painted relaxed portraits of his family and friends. Fairfield Porter taught at Skowhegan in 1964. "Dog at the Door" is characteristic of his most admired work.



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Last Updated: 11/14/12