Published: June 7, 2011
The Woodstock Artists Association & Museum presents “Peggy Bacon: Cats and Caricatures” from June 11 until October 10 in the Phoebe and Belmont Towbin Wing.
The exhibition was conceived by guest curator Tom Wolf of Bard College and takes as its theme two of the richest subjects explored by artist and illustrator Bacon (1895-1987) †her skill at drawing and exaggerating the characteristic facial features of friends, artists, entertainers and politicians and her lifelong fascination with cats as visual subjects rich in movement, variety and expression. Wolf will give a gallery talk on Saturday, June 11, at 2:30 pm, followed by the opening reception from 4 to 6 pm. Admission to the talk is $5; the reception is free of charge.
Born in 1895, the daughter of two artists, Bacon turned down admission to Smith College to study art instead. After attending the School for Applied Design for Women, she started in 1915 at the Art Students League, where she met several of her Woodstock friends, including Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Katherine Schmidt and Dorothy Varian. Her teachers included John Sloan and George Bellows, both of whom were members of the “Ashcan School” of painters.
Led by Robert Henri, several of the Ash Can group were experienced newspaper illustrators, adept at quickly sketching scenes of every day life and caricaturing each other. Their tradition of quick drawing and satiric portraiture took hold with Bacon. Her talent for capturing a likeness was apparent early, and she took the convivial, creative life around her as a subject, populating many of her early prints with incisive portraits of her fellow artists at the league and later the Whitney Studio Club.
A good example of this is “Frenzied Effort,” a print from the 1920s of an art class sketching a nude model at the Studio Club, showing a complex multifigured composition with different views of the model visible on the easels of the various draftsmen. The print includes several portraits, such as George “Pop” Hart with glasses and pipe top center, and a caricature of Bacon, who typically depicted herself with no chin.
Along with caricatures, Bacon was known for her renderings of cats, which appeared in her images from its earliest days to the end of her career, and which make up the other part of the WAAM exhibition. She made hundreds of close studies of individual cats, featured cats in elaborately composed, multifigured scenes, or created narrative pictures in which they were the protagonists, like “The Whole Scene.”
Woodstock Artists Association & Museum is at 28 Tinker Street. For information, www.woodstockart.org or 845-679-2940.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm