Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Robert J. Lee: "My own background is right out of John Steinbeck."

In 1968 the editors of American Artist magazine presented the work of illustrator Robert J. Lee. Accompanying his art they compiled interviews, correspondences and "several pages of informal notes" into a single 'digest' of Lee's thoughts on a broad range of topics related to his life as an artist.


Here is the 2nd excerpt:

"My own background is right out of John Steinbeck: field hand, cannery worker. Yet I couldn't possibly paint these things. At present I find myself involved in inventing Victorian interiors in very subdued color, or fantasy paintings involving animals, birds and symbols."


"I'll leave the last to the psychiatrists."


"Social content or commentary in painting seems to be missing entirely from the present scene, with the exception of a few artists."


"Let's talk about reality, a word that can mean just about anything one wishes it to be. We are living in a time when a run-of-the-mill illustrator takes a commercial label from a can of food, projects it onto a canvas, traces it, fills it in with colour and is acclaimed by the "taste makers" in American art to be the new Messiah!"


"Another hero of the "in" crowd copies the very worst of our comic strips. Curiously enough, the designer who did the original can label and the comic strip artist are not considered artists by anyone. Please understand, I do not deny the right of anyone to paint or construct anything he wishes, but I do resent the attitude of narrow-mindedness which seems to laud ridiculous efforts."


"Radicals of any persuasion seem to take the stance that those who do not go along with them are morons and beneath notice. One happy thought however: if you are a bit sick of the current art scene, just be very thankful that we are not faced by something as overpowering as the French Academy of the nineteenth century. We are truly free to create work in any style or idiom we wish, and there are certainly more places to exhibit such elections than ever before."


"I have read articles which stated that easel painting as we know it is just about over, or will be in the next 50 years. I do not know if this will come to pass or not. It doesn't trouble me, one way or the other."


* Continued tomorrow


  1. I wish he would tell what he really thinks.

    Warhol's can is still a can, and no one cares anymore, but its still art. And I saw the Lichtenstein exhibit at the Tate Modern last month and I agree that his work means little -- yet -- its still art.

    The surrealistic ladder to nowhere is fantastically fresh as a daisy!

    Colors are beautiful. . .