We were saddened to learn of the passing of Philip Pearlstein at the end of last year, following an illness. An early and key member of the gallery’s program, as a painter, Pearlstein helped define a style of realism that flouted the conventions of postwar movements. His exacting and clinical images of models in the studio upended not only the dual tendencies of his contemporaries towards minimalism or expressionism, but were radical in their novel approach to the figure.
Pearlstein began showing with Allan Frumkin Gallery around 1960, just when he began to focus on the nude as his primary subject. He was joining a program that included other lauded figurative painters of the period such as Robert Barnes, Paul Georges and James McGarrell. By the early 1970s, their ranks had expanded to include Jack Beal, Willard Midgette and Alfred Leslie, an evolution that reflected the exploding popularity of the “New Realism” that Pearlstein had pioneered. For Pearlstein in particular, regular exhibitions of both his paintings and watercolors were met with both commercial and critical acclaim, culminating in his first museum survey, a traveling retrospective organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1983. Since 2005, Pearlstein has shown with Betty Cuningham Gallery in New York, who is organizing a memorial exhibition planned for this spring. Both The New York Times and ArtForum penned insightful obituaries.