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Francis Cunningham

Learning How to See

ISBN: 9788874399062 (PB - E)

A new take on perception and preconceptions about the unclothed body and how, through art, the naked becomes the nude 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. These last two aspects, which were of fundamental importance in his life, are brought to the forefront in the very title of the book: Learning How to See. The book chronicles Cunningham's development from his earliest, small, and mostly abstract canvases characterized by large color 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 favorite model, Regina Hawkins-Balducci.

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