Research Repository

Painting History in Mid-Century America: A Case Study of Friedel Dzubas’s Mature Style

Lewy, Patricia L (2018) Painting History in Mid-Century America: A Case Study of Friedel Dzubas’s Mature Style. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

[img] Text
THESIS_PATRICIA L LEWY_U OF E THESIS-FINAL VERSION-7.15.18.docx
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (68MB) | Request a copy

Abstract

My thesis, “Painting History in Mid-Century America: A Case Study of Friedel Dzubas’s Mature Style (1970s)” examines why Friedel Dzubas—an American artist of German descent whose friends and supporters included the powerful critic Clement Greenberg and the artists in his circle, among them Morris Louis, Jules Olitski, Helen Frankenthaler, and Kenneth Noland—disappeared from the canon of artists associated with Post Painterly Abstraction (Color Field Painting) as it evolved from the later 1950s into the 1970s. My work offers an account of the genesis of Dzubas’s mature style based on a formalist approach to the artist’s work. Chapter One presents Dzubas’s early biography, excavated for the first time from documents in the Friedel Dzubas Estate Archive to which I have been given sole access. Until now, the published critical writings on Dzubas’s works, including those of Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried, have tended to consider Dzubas’s painting in the 1970s anomalous with regard to Post Painterly Abstraction, and even more damaging, to be a nearly failed effort in the simulation of that modernist problematic. While not challenging that reception, I present clear evidence from letters and interviews of Dzubas’s more immediate interests, despite the continued grouping of his work with Post Painterly (Color Field) painters. By the 1970s, these interests showed themselves in abstract symbols of religious import and atmospheric aerial landscape painting. Rather than foregrounding the characteristics that distinguished painting qua painting in modernist theorizations—the canvas’s two-dimensional facticity, the relationship between paint-images and their framing edges, and the releasing of hue in open fields across the surface—Dzubas’s paintings highlight compositional strategies and traditional approaches to the canvas that at the time were considered anachronistic when judged against aesthetic values of material integrity, spontaneous production, color expression, and autonomy. Dzubas’s gessoed grounds, suspended images in shallow space, and allusive, tactile associations challenged modernist precepts at that time. The theory behind this attitude is explored in Chapter Two. Chapter Three presents a close reading of Dzubas’s critical reception, focusing on reviews that while vaunting his color sense and dramatic, roiling surfaces marginalized his production by linking it to his German background and the influence of the great Romantic painters. In Chapter Four, I propose that rather than merely carrying over gestural abstraction from the 1940s and 1950s in America into his own production, Dzubas was more profoundly influenced by the “touch” in historic painting, the colorito in the tradition of the Venetians dating from late Titian to the grand frescoed tableaux of Giambattista Tiepolo, whose vast expanses further inspired Dzubas to create his own religious tableau, his magnum opus, Apocalypsis cum Figuras/Crossing, A.D. 1975, 1975. My case study suggests that for his grand realization, Dzubas had reached back to his early training in decorative wall painting and to specific characteristics of Tiepolo’s vast panoramas whose figuration was grounded in affective gestures of 18th-century opera seria. Dzubas’s turn toward Tiepolo affirms his commitment to the theatrical as well as to the pictorial structures of religious depictions of the Day of Judgment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Patricia Lewy
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2018 14:17
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2018 14:18
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/22893

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item