For Serious Painters

Maureen Mullarkey

Francis Cunningham has gone online! What a good thing, and overdue. He brings to the web all the grace and good sense of his years of teaching at the Art Students League. His website details the range of his work. But it is his blog that is so exciting for other painters. It is a valuable extension of his classes. Here are videos filmed in his own studio. Dick talks as he has to a generation of students at the League about every aspect of painting, from initial design to framing. It is a marvelous resource.

His still lifes are among my very favorite works in the genre by contemporary painters. This is as fresh today as it was when it was painted forty years ago:

Chime Knife and Barking Spud (1970)
Chime Knife and Barking Spud (1970)

This spare quotation from the real world lends grace—more precisely, it illumines— the grace of ordinary tools: the design of them, their texture and architecture. These are hand tools, mementos of craft and all that craft means to a culture. At a time when the nation that produced and used these tools no longer makes what it needs to sustain itself, the painting has an almost unbearable poignance. This, despite the restraint and formal composure of the arrangement.

© 2010 Maureen Mullarkey