"THE ESCAPE OF TONY BIDDLE"
OIL ON CANVAS, SIGNED
AMERICAN, DATED 1982
PROVENANCE: TERRY DINTENFASS GALLERY, NEW YORK
36 X 48 INCHES
Richard Merkin’s work conjures up scenes that evoke the raucous spirit of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. In his witty, often eccentric illustrations and paintings, Merkin depicts movie stars, jazz musicians, sports heroes and literary impresarios co-mingling with more personal references. In his highly stylized approach to the figure, Merkin privileges color relationships, balance and juxtaposition over strictly literal descriptions of his subjects.
Merging his role as flaneur (connoisseur of city life) with his role as painter and social historian, Merkin retrieves lost cultural artifacts-a Turkish cigarette, a gangster, a bowler and generally 'things most people don't know about'-and reconstitutes their Jazz Age virtues on canvas in cubist, comic-laced landscapes of tropical color.
“This desire to know and celebrate people and events that others find devoid of significance”, according to Barbara Dayer Gallati, ” is a primary characteristic of Merkin’s art and the source of the irony that prevails within it. More often than not these esoteric fragments of “public” information reveal a taste for the bizarre or darker side of human existence, the sinister nature of which is relieved by the artist’s use of vibrant color and dynamic compositions.”
In agreement, Tom Wolfe writes, "The typical Merkin picture takes legendary American images-from baseball, the movies, fashion, Society, tabloid crime and scandal-and mixes them with his own autobiography, often with dream-">Richard Merkin was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1938, and held degrees from Syracuse University and the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1962-63 he received a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in Painting and, in 1975, The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from The National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Merkin also has the dubious distinction of appearing on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, (back row, right of center).
Merkin began teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1963 and remained there for nearly 42 years. During this time, he built his reputation as a fine artist in New York City. He is represented in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian Institution and the Whitney Museum as well as many others. Mr. Merkin had been a Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair from 1986 to 2008 and a regular contributor of illustrations to The New Yorker since 1988, as well as Harper’s and The New York Time’s Sunday Magazine. From 1988-1991 he wrote a monthly ">Merkin’s exhibitions in Hudson, NY began in 2000 at Kendall Art & Design, a gallery run by one of his former RISD students, Laura Battle. In 2002, he began exhibiting with Carrie Haddad Gallery until he died in 2009.