Irving Petlin
Mythology and the Island
Exhibition at A Gallery, Martha’s Vineyard, August 2014

I first came to Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1977 and have produced a considerable body of work there every summer since then. Maybe it’s the apartness of an island, the fact it’s surrounded by water that invites the mythological, the magical, more easily to take hold, and enter imagination and memory – this has certainly been true for me over the past 36 summers.

In preparing this exhibition, three strands of imagery emerged : the Cottage, the Boat and the Island. The resulting group of pastels is an exploration of the transformation of the ordinary into the mythic.

The four « Cottage » pastels ‘picture’ my immeasurable personal attachment to to it, an actual place. Each work explores its mythic ‘appearance’, ‘disappearance’ and ‘evaporation’. This little wood frame house, surrounded by trees, sky, children and a boat, becomes my voice.

« The Boat » A boat appears often in my work. A simple form becomes a metaphor for the wanderers, the door to the sea. In the dyptich, the boat is intertwined with the fate of the planet, as the ancient Egyptian goddess spins her top determining who wins, who loses.

In « Portrait of Queequeg and the Boat », Queequeg peers down into the « Pequod », riddled and struggling.

« The Island » This group of four pastels is a symbolic representation of the four seasons : ‘Winter Sun’, ‘Night Sun’, ‘Fate of the Island’ and ‘Lovers, Summer Storm’ . The island is a giant rock, rendered up close in a reversal of perspective, a mythic apparition.




(b. 1943, Chicago)

2012 Storms (After Redon), Kent Fine Art, New York
L’Art de la fugue, Galerie Ditesheim, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

2011 En route, Topographie de l’Art, Paris
2010 Homage à W. G. Sebald, Galerie Ditesheim, Artparis, Grand Palais, Paris

Major Paintings: 1979-2009, Kent Gallery, New York

A Retrospective, Richard L. Feigen and Jan Krugier, New York 2007 Orpheus: Pastels, Galerie Ditesheim, FIAC, Paris
2006 Este Mundo, Kent Gallery, New York
2002 Endgame, Kent Gallery, New York

Togo Fine Art, Tokyo

Le Monde de Paul Celan, Galerie Krugier-Ditesheim Art Contemporain, Geneva 2001 Galleria Tega, Milan

Out of the Shadows, School of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston
1999 Memoire du voyage, voyage de la mémoire, Galerie Thessa Herald, Paris 1998 A Tribute to Meyer Schapiro, Jan Krugier Gallery, New York.

Pastels, Galleria Contini, Venice
1997 New Pastels, Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis

Le Monde d’Edmond Jabes: Pastels, Krugier-Ditesheim Art Contemporain, Geneva 1996 Paris is White, Kent Gallery, New York
1995 Disegni nacosti: 1955-1995, Studio d’Arte Recalcati, Turin
1994 Au gré la mémoire, Galerie Thessa Herold, Paris
1993 Swiat Brunona Shulza, Galerie Kordegarda, Warsaw
1992 Le Monde de Bruno Schulz, Galerie Krugier-Ditesheim Art Contemporain, Geneva

Memories Drawn from Bruno Schulz and Others, Kent Gallery, New York 1990 Israel in Egypt, Kent Fine Art, New York

The Periodic Table, Gallery 400, University of Chicago

Drawings, Printworks, Chicago 1988 Galleria La Parisina, Turin

Elizabeth Franck Gallery, Knokke-le-Zoute, Belgium

Pastels 1961–1987, Kent Fine Art, New York 1987 Simms Fine Art Gallery, New Orleans

Pastels, Galerie Jean Briance, Paris

Weisswald, Kent Fine Art, New York
1986 New Paintings, Marlborough Gallery, New York
1984 Recent Paintings and Pastels, Marlborough Gallery, New York 1983 Dart Gallery, Chicago

Forty Pastels, Odyssia Gallery, New York

Drawings from the Studio, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 1982 Recent Paintings and Pastels, Marlborough Fine Art, London
1981 Drawings, Pastels and Paintings, Odyssia Gallery, New York

Drawings from the Studio, 1972–1981, University of California at Santa Cruz
1980 Pastels, Galerie Nina Dausset, Paris
1979 The Drawing Lesson, Odyssia Gallery, New York
1978 Rubbings (Large Paintings, Small Pastels), Neuberger Museum, State University of New York at

Purchase. Traveled to the Arts Club of Chicago 1977 Galleria Bergamini, Milan

1976 Gallery Rebecca Cooper, Washington, DC Dipinti e Pastelli, Galleria Odyssia, Rome

1974 Documenta, Turin
1972 Galleria Bergamini, Milan

1971 Odyssia Gallery, New York
Peintures, Pastels 1956-1970, Galerie du Dragon, Paris

1970 Galleria Odyssia, Rome 1969 Galleria Odyssia, Rome

Odyssia Gallery, New York
1968 Opere recenti, Galleria Il Fante di Spade, Rome

Odyssia Gallery, New York

Galerie du Dragon, Paris
1967 Odyssia Gallery, New York
1966 Rolf Nelson Gallery, Los Angeles 1965 Petlin, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels 1964 Hanover Gallery, London

Peintures récentes, Galerie du Dragon, Paris 1963 Peintures 1962–1963, Galerie du Dragon, Paris 1962 Les 100 hommes, Galatea, Turin

Galerie du Dragon, Paris 1960 Galerie du Dragon, Paris

1959 Mother Harbour, Studio Bellini, Milan 1958 Dilexi Gallery, San Francisco
1956 Cliffdweller Gallery, Chicago


2014 Revisiting Histories, Kent Fine Art, New York
2013 Le Mal. Now, Topographie de l’Art, Paris
2007 Le Pastel, chagrin de la peinture, Galerie Saint-Jacques, Saint-Quentin, France

Il Settimo splendore: La Modernità della malinconia, Palazzo della Ragione, Verona, Italy 2006 Thirty Years of New-Year Graphics from the Jewish Museum, Burlington City Arts / Firehouse

Gallery, Burlington, Vermont
2005 Le Feu sous les cendres, de Picasso à Basquiat, Musée Maillol—Fondation Dina Vierny, Paris 2004 Nouveaux regards sur le pastel, Galerie Saint-Jacques, Saint-Quentin, France
2003 Max-Clarac Sérou, Galeriste et Editeur, Galerie Didier Lecointre et Dominique Drouet, Paris 2002 Petlin / Guarienti, Galerie Le Point, Monaco
2001 Alumni Choice, Yale University of Art, New Haven, Connecticut

Galerie Pascal Gabert, Paris.
2000 Chicago Loop: Imagist Art 1949–1979, Whitney Museum of American Art, Stanford, Connecticut

Paris sous le ciel de la peinture, Salle Saint Jean, Hôtel de Ville de Paris 1997 Leon Golub, R.B. Kitaj, Irving Petlin, Kent Gallery, New York

Inspired by Paul Cummings (Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture), Achim Moeller Fine Art, New Y ork

1996 Light into Darkness, Kent Gallery, New York
1995 Eloge du pastel, de Liotard à Petlin, Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva

L’Arbre en majesté (Hommage d’artistes contemporains aux sculpteurs anonymes des Arbres de Jessé du XVe siècle), Musée de l’Hospice de Saint-Roch, Issoudun, France

Voices of Conscience: Then and Now, ACA Galleries, New York. Curated by Barbara Hollister 1992 Memory and Metaphor, Andre Zarre Gallery, New York

Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, 1916-1991, Arts Club of Chicago 1991 Sous l’imaginaire, le reel, Galerie du Dragon, Paris
1990 Symbolism, Arthur A. Houghton Gallery, Cooper Union, New York

Chagall to Kitaj: Jewish Experience in Twentieth-Century Art, Barbican Gallery, London
1989 Golden Opportunity: Benefit for the Resettlement of Salvadorian Refugees, Leo Castelli Gallery,

New York
A Different War: Vietnam in Art, Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington. Curated by Lucy

Lippard. Traveled under the auspices of Independent Curators Incorporated to the De Cordova Museum of Art, Lincoln, Massachusetts; University Art Galleries at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Akron Museum of Art, Akron, Ohio; Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin; Wight Art Gallery at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois


1988 Revelation: Drawings in America, Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock. Traveled to the Umjetnicka Galerija Bosne i Hercegovine, Sarajevo, Yugoslavia; Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia; Galerija Josip-Bepo Benkovic, Herceg Novi, Yugoslavia; Museo de Arte, Seville; Festival International du Dessin Contemporain, Grand Palais, Paris

Autour d’Edouard Glissant, Galerie du Dragon, Paris 1986 Americans Myths, Kent Fine Art, New York

Portraits, New York Studio School, New York
1985 Narration Drawings, New Y ork Studio School, New Y ork

American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York
The Double Life of Amphibians (stage sets for an opera by Morton Subotnick), Contemporary Music Festival, Los Angeles
The Dilexi Years: 1958 – 1970, Oakland Museum, Oakland, California
New Narrative Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida Twentieth-Century American Drawings from the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection,

Eastern Shore Art Association, Fairhope, Alaska; Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Louisiana Arts and Science Center, Baton Rouge; Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach; Art Institute for the Permian Basin, Odessa, Texas; Jacksonville Art Museum, Jacksonville, Florida; Cornell Fine Art Center, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida; Meadows Museum and Sculpture Court, South Methodist University, Dallas; Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center, Pueblo, Colorado; Alexandria Museum of Art, Alexandria, Louisiana; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio

Twentieth-Century American Drawings: The Figure in Context. Curated by Paul Cummings under the auspices of the International Exhibitions Foundation. Traveled to the Terra Museum of Art, Evanston, Illinois; Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; Oklahoma Museum of Art, Oklahoma City; Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio; Elvehjem Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin: National Academy of Design, New York

Art americain: Collection du Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

International Masters of Contemporary Figuration, Marlborough Fine Art, Tokyo 1983 Works on Paper, Marlborough Gallery, New York

Bodies & Souls, Artist’s Choice Museum, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York

Director’s Choice, Des Moines Art Center
1982 Jewish Themes/Contemporary American Artists, Jewish Museum, New York

Venice Biennale
1981 American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York
1980 Le Pastel, Chateau d’Ancy-le-Franc, Ancy-le-Franc, France
1979 The Pastel in America, Odyssia Gallery, New York. Traveled to the Grand Rapids Art Museum,

Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Narrative Impulse: Paintings, Drawing, and Monotypes, Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts

Institute of Technology, Cambridge
1978 American Landscapes, Monique Knowlton Gallery, New York
1977 For Övyind Fahlström: An Exhibition by His Friends, Galerie Buchols, Munich

American Drawings of the 70s, Art Institute of Chicago
1976 Jewish Artists of the Twentieth Century, Spertus Museum, Chicago
1975 La Ricerca dell’identità, Palazzo Reale, Milan
1973 Una Tendanza americana, Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea, Arezzo, Italy

Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 1972 Immagine per la città, Palazzo dell’Accademia and Palazzo Reale, Genoa

Chicago Imagist Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Seventieth American Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago
1971 Critic’s Choice, Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 1970 American Painting 1970, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond

Bilder-Eine Internationale Ausstellung, Vienna
Image/Dessin, ARC/Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris L’Art dans la ville, Fontainebleau, France

1969 Viewpoints 2, Picker Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York 1966 Seul. . . et le corps, Galerie du Dragon, Paris


U.S.A vivant, Musée des Augustins, Toulouse Salon de mai, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris Alternative attuali 2, L’Aquila, Italy

1965 Signal, Manifeste, Proteste, Kunsthalle Recklinghousen, Recklinghousen, Germany Il Presente contestato, Museo Civico, Bologna
Salon de la jeune peinture, Paris
Mitologia del nostro tempo, Museo Civico, Arezzo, Italy

Salon de mai, Musée de Art Moderne, Paris 1964 Alternative attuali 1, L’Aquila, Italy
1964 American Show, Art Institute of Chicago

Figurative and Defigurative, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium Premio Marzatto, Valdagno, Italy
Medaille d’Or, Prix d’Europe, Kursaal, Oostende, Belgium
Salon de mai, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris

1963 Salon de mai, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris
Sept artistes américains à Paris, Centre Culturel Américain, Paris

1962 7 Americains, Centre Culturel Americain, Paris
Recent Acquisitions, Museum of Modern Art, New York Nouvelle figuration II, Galerie Mathias Fels, Paris
Salon de mai, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris

1961 Deuxiéme biennale et internationa des jeunes artistes, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris Huit artistes de Chicago, Galerie du Dragon, Paris
Salon de mai, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris

1954 Exhibition Momentum, Chicago SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock Art Institute of Chicago
Le Centre Pompidou, Paris
Des Moines Art Center, Iowa

De Young Museum, San Francisco
First National Bank of Chicago
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The Jewish Museum, New York
Lannan Foundation, Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Museen der Stadt, Recklinghausen, Germany
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Philadelphia Museum of Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

By Mathea Morais When I was a younger, going to Irving Petlin’s home was like stepping into another sphere — where beauty existed everywhere. It was in the sweeping curve of the lawn, the old Wayside Farm barn that had been turned into a house, and it was in the colorful, poignant stories that Mr. […]

Artist Irving Petlin has led a remarkable life. He has enjoyed great success and mingled with groundbreakers and luminaries in two worlds – both in his creative pursuits and in his human rights efforts.

Whatever your life story, it is part of a larger history – this is what Petlin recognizes and is perhaps why he suppresses the personal or anecdotal.

Irving Petlin is the world’s premier living pastel artist. He is currently an expatriate, living in Paris, France. We sat down at the National Arts Club to discuss his current exhibition there, and his history as an activist and artist.
© A Gallery MV 2018