the funny thing about growing up watching American TV & movies, but not being from that country, is that you are intimately familiar with things that play no part in your actual life. for example, stereotypical things that make up an American high school: cheerleaders, football players, cafeterias, having a locker – we had none of these things, yet i’m totally familiar with them.
the only way i can describe the feeling i got when looking through the work of Fairfield Porter was that i was familiar with the scenes, almost like i was looking at what i know the typical American summer looks like. and it’s not surprising considering that many of his paintings are of the landscapes of Long Island, where Porter lived, and Great Spruce Head Island in Maine – where he spent his summers, and which his family owned.
“Never do we get “studio” subjects like the set-up still life or the posed nude. He wanted to avoid the prepared or arranged look. His figures are relaxed but still and quiet, posed or semi-posed and flat-footed. Everything is natural, normal, and as straightforward as possible. The psychology aimed at is always direct, warm, and uncomplicated. The real subject matter is the entire scene and its peculiar effect of light.” – Artes Magazine
as you can probably tell by the fact that his family owned an island, Porter was pretty well off and didn’t need to work. he studied Art History at Harvard where he decided he wanted to be a painter, but he only became noteworthy when he was already in his late forties. he was heavily influenced by the French post-impressionists Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard and once said, “When I paint, I think that what would satisfy me is to express what Bonnard said Renoir told him: make everything more beautiful.”
below are photographs of Porter courtesy of the Smithsonian Archives: