Figurative painter Eric Fischl, an internationally acclaimed artist known for his representational painting focusing on the American suburban experience and the language of human bodies, encourages viewers to see the world through his eyes, with sharpened powers of observation and insight. “Dive Deep: Eric Fischl and the Process of Painting” explores Fischl’s rigorous creative process through 145 works of art, including 50 working photographs and 14 paintings from 1979 to the present.
Fischl’s paintings have chronicled certain sections of American society for more than 30 years. He laboriously made clay maquettes, photographed them, and then used the photographs as the basis for sketches that became studies for a painting. Fischl has also used figures from photographs by Thomas Eakins that are part of PAFA’s permanent collection as the subjects of some of his works. Fischl has now adopted Photoshop, fully integrating technology into his hybrid processes, adding and removing figures before arriving at his final composition. The exhibition will reveal how the artist’s compositional process has moved from the canvas to computer, while the process of execution — the act of painting — remains central to what makes his work unique.
Throughout the exhibit are examples of Fischl’s keen eye combining the summer beach scene, the figure in painting and photography. “I think there is something alive in the beach environment, which is very complicated,” explained the artist. “On one hand it’s totally elemental: It’s this contrast between solid and liquid, and the liquid is actually the place we come from in terms of the way we live in water until we are born, but also genetically in terms of the evolution of man. So we have this aspect to it that I think on some level is a cellular memory of a powerful place to be, so we gather there. Then (the beach) is also a place to relax, so it is sort of a different sort of body language than the body language of a working day, which brings into it the sexuality, sensuality, desire — and with that comes a lot of the cultural anxiety that Americans have around all of that stuff. So, I find it a really compelling space.”
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) presents “Dive Deep: Eric Fischl and the Process of Painting,” on view June 29 – Sept. 30 at the Fisher Brooks Gallery, Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), 128 N. Broad Street. The exhibition is accompanied by a constellation of related studies in various media, most of which have never before been made available for public viewing and provide a revealing look into the painter’s provocative visual intelligence.