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Bernard Perlin (American, 1918-2014), Self-Portrait, 1939, pencil on paper, 13 1/4 x 13 inches, collection of the Estate of the Artist
Feb 23, 2016
throughMay 13, 2016

Bernard Perlin: An Anthology of Drawings, 1934-1994

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Bernard Perlin: An Anthology of Drawings, 1934-1994 is on view February 23 through May 13, 2016, in the Harnett Museum of Art. Born in Richmond, Virginia, Bernard Perlin (American, 1918-2014) is most closely associated with the art movement and style known as “magic realism” that developed in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. Recognized for his use of light and line in his paintings and drawings, Perlin’s career spanned seven decades, and his art included wartime propaganda posters, depictions of New York society, views of Italy, magazine illustrations, portraits, self-portraits, and nudes. This exhibition is the first to assess the full scope of Perlin’s mastery of drawing and includes more than seventy works from the 1930s to the 1990s.

About the exhibition

Perlin received two important mural commissions early in his career as an artist. One was from the U.S. Treasury Department for a mural for the South Orange, New Jersey Post Office in 1939, the other from the U.S. Maritime Commission for murals for the SS President Hayes in 1940. During World War II, he began designing popular propaganda posters for the U.S. Government and later became a war artist-correspondent for Life and Fortune magazines. Upon returning to the United States he embarked on a series of “social realist” paintings that recorded people and scenes from Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

While living in Italy between 1948 and 1954, Perlin began to move away from social realism and instead painted landscapes, still lifes, and figures. From 1959 he lived in Connecticut and was painting figuratively but becoming more interested in making abstract paintings. His work is in numerous collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; and Tate Modern, London.

Highlights of the exhibition include the sketch for a 1942 commercial lithograph poster printed in color by the U.S. Government Printing Office and issued by the U.S. Office of War Information titled You Make it Right…They’ll Make it Fight; a graphite drawing on tracing paper of Winston Churchill in Cairo from 1943; The Lomokome Papers, illustrations for an article by Herman Wouk that appeared in Collier’s magazine, February 17, 1956; and portraits of celebrities and models. Most were drawn using the silverpoint technique, a medium that the artist excelled in. Four studies of boxer Joe Frazier from 1972, which were commissioned by Sports Illustrated magazine are included, and Perlin created these sketches while he watched Frazier train in a New York gym.

Michael Schreiber, curator of the estate of Bernard Perlin and curator of the exhibition states, “I’m delighted to see this first thorough showcase of Bernard Perlin’s incredible works on paper be presented in his beloved hometown of Richmond. Bernard Perlin was an extraordinary figure in twentieth-century American art whose work is at last getting the attention it deserves.”

Organized by the University of Richmond Museums, the exhibition was curated by Michael Schreiber, Curator, The Estate of Bernard Perlin, and Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums. The exhibition and related programs are made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund. An accompanying book by Michael Schreiber, One-Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin, published and distributed by Bruno Gmünder Verlag, Berlin, is available.


Monday, February 22, 2016, 6 to 8 p.m.
6 p.m., Lecture, Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Center
“One Man Show: The Art and Life of Bernard Perlin”
Michael Schreiber, Curator, The Estate of Bernard Perlin
7 to 8 p.m., Reception and preview of the exhibition Bernard Perlin: An Anthology of Drawings, 1934-1994
Harnett Museum of Art, University Museums

One Man Show: The Art and Life of Bernard Perlin

Bernard Perlin: An Anthology of Drawings, 1934-1994

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