Peter Saul: A Retrospective

October 17, 2008 - January 4, 2009

Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building, Fisher Brooks Gallery
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is the only East Coast venue for the most comprehensive survey of Peter Saul's work ever to appear in the United States. Peter Saul: A Retrospective will be on view in the PAFA’s Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, October 17, 2008 – January 4, 2009.

Peter Saul has challenged viewers and the art world with his hilarious yet transgressive figure paintings. Unafraid to tackle difficult political subjects or examine both the individual or national psyche, Saul is one of the most influential and divisive artists of his generation. Organized by the Orange County Museum of Art and curated at PAFA by Curator of Modern Art Robert Cozzolino, Peter Saul: A Retrospective is the first major American survey of Saul’s work, featuring 50 paintings and drawings from 1958 to the present, including large-scale “historical epics,” satires of art history, and several of Saul’s most recent paintings addressing World War II and the war in Iraq. The PAFA presentation will include material not shown at other venues, borrowed directly from the artist, including several working sketches and Clemunteena Gweenburg (1971) from his scathing series of Art World Portraits. Saul will also debut a painting, currently in progress, inspired by Thomas Eakins’s Portrait of Dr. Gross (The Gross Clinic) this Fall.

Peter Saul (American, b. 1934) is among the handful of American painters and collage artists whose groundbreaking proto-Pop achievements in the late 1950s and early 1960s were demoted once the champions of that movement were anointed a few years later. Saul has always forged his own path, creating often difficult, funny, and trenchant works—“sick jokes” according to Robert Storr, distinguished curator and dean of the Yale School of Art. His art embraces personal foibles and important events in American history, such as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. His twisted comic-book forms, artificially hot colors, controversial subject matter, and unquenchable ambition to provoke strong feelings through his paintings have kept him on the edges of the art world while also preserving, for over forty years, the freshness of his work.

PAFA is proud to announce an exciting and ambitious series of public programs in conjunction with the exhibition that will engage scholars, Saul’s contemporaries, and the artist himself. Events include lectures by David McCarthy, Dan Cameron, Robert Cozzolino, Robert Storr, and an evening with Chris Ware; a Philadelphia area art school mixer; a master class taught by Peter Saul; and a special symposium and panel discussion entitled On the Limits and Possibilities of Politics in Art. See the Events sidebar (right) for more information.

Orange County Museum of Art

Dan Cameron; coordinated in Philadelphia by Robert Cozzolino, Curator of Modern Art.

This project has been supported by a grant from the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
Contributing support is provided by Donald R. Caldwell, Gabriele Lee, and Eileen Rosenau.