Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chaim Soutine ~ The Little Pastry Chef linked to Bill Cumming

The Little Pastry Chef (to the left) and Portrait of Bill Cumming (above)– another unlikely duo here at Fifty Two Pieces. Portrait of Bill Cumming by Morris Graves hangs just around the corner and half way down the corridor from The Little Pastry Chef. Some think these two paintings were separated at birth or at least at the easel. Bruce Guenther, Chief Curator at the Portland Art Museum has been heard saying that Morris Graves followed in the Expressionist footsteps of Chaim Soutine with this portrait. Cumming is certainly painted with a similar elongated curving body. And the expression – Cumming might be considered to be looking bemused or a more vernacular saying about what's up with this fellow artist. Spend a moment in the gallery, look at the brush strokes, check out the paint color and ask Cumming yourself about life, his thoughts, what he was experiencing. Thinking about Graves' work, portraits are not unrepresented but are certainly not his usual choice of format. We'll probably never know why he chose to paint this younger artist's portrait. Cumming had teamed up with Graves, and the rest of the Northwest School – Guy Anderson, Kenneth and Margaret Callahan, Mark Tobey, and Lubin Petric. Maybe Graves was fascinated with Cumming's style, his love of music that he both played and composed, his love of poetry that he both read and wrote. Or perhaps it was Graves wonderment when he thought about Cumming having married seven times or finally dealing with his lingering tuberculosis from his Christian Scientist heritage. Whatever it was that prompted this painting, we are left with this unusual portrait around the corner and linked to The Little Pastry Chef. To read more about Bill Cumming and Morris Graves, take a look at "Cumming, William (b. 1917): The Willie Nelson of Northwest Painting". It is well written and follows Cumming through the Northwest as he becomes both politically active and a well known artist.

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