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<SPAN>Shirley Goldfarb (1925–1980) belongs to a long and distinguished list of expatriate American artists who reached artistic maturity in the European milieu. Having first arrived in Paris in 1954 as an art student eager to see works by old masters like Leonardo Da Vinci’s <SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic">Mona Lisa</SPAN>, she became immersed in the rich artistic tradition and contemporary café culture, was enamored by the city, and quickly decided to live there. <BR/><BR/>Back in New York, Jackson Pollock had been a significant influence on her artistic beginnings, but it was in Paris that Goldfarb’s signature style emerged. Among the many artists she interacted with, Yves Klein—the first French artist to invite Goldfarb to visit his studio—was perhaps the most influential for her, as she credits him with inspiring her interest in monochrome painting. The distinct modularity in her application of paint, however, can actually be traced to an entirely different source. The treatment of light in the paintings of Claude Monet, which she saw for the first time when she arrived in Paris, made a powerful and lasting impression. Combining an “aggressive” expressive sensibility stemming from Abstract Expressionism and its French counterpart, Tachisme, with her gravitation toward the aesthetic sensitivity of Monet’s Impressionism, Shirley Goldfarb’s canvases are at once captivating and mesmerizing. <BR/><BR/>The Addison’s 1980 <SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic">Black Painting</SPAN> is among the artist’s final works; despite her terminal illness, she continued to maintain a rigorous painting schedule, working at least five hours a day. The undulating patterns of paint strokes create a magnetic field of pure blackness, a visual expression of the artist’s emotional state at the time. In a 1979 interview, Goldfarb had discussed how her paintings are reflections of her inner world: <BR/><BR/><SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic">Perhaps it is metaphysical! I hope that what I feel inside me are mysterious, metaphysical, religious things that have a spiritual meaning. I want each gesture of my hand to project what is inside of me, that powerful emotion of the beauty of life…. I want each gesture to say something that comes from within the deepest recesses of my inner being.</SPAN> <BR/><BR/>This black painting was preceded by two others on a smaller scale, one of which was painted as an homage to Jackson Pollock, after his death in 1956. Yet, black was not exactly a mournful color for Goldfarb; more so, black was a color she associated closely with, a color of power and impact, her “war paint.” Thus—despite the artist’s impending death, or perhaps because of it—this painting takes on a different meaning than what seems, at first consideration, obvious; rather than a gesture of sorrow and despair, it is an autobiographical statement reminding us of the artist’s strength, an elegiac self-portrait of epic proportions. <BR/><BR/>Kelley Tialiou <BR/>Charles H. Sawyer Curatorial Assistant | Librarian | Archivist<BR/><BR/><BR/>1. Shirley Goldfarb, interview with Michel Sicard, summer 1979. Excerpts published in <SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic">Shirley Goldfarb</SPAN> (Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1997). <BR/>2. Marc Masurovsky, correspondence with the author, January 20, 2015. <BR/></SPAN>
This object was included in the following exhibitions:New Work: Recent Additions to the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/21/2001 - 7/31/2001
Tracing the Sublime, Addison Gallery of American Art, 12/16/2003 - 3/21/2004
Light/Dark, White/Black, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/17/2015 - 7/31/2015
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