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.”

Fairfield Porter

The Cliffs of Isle Au Haut

Fairfield Porter

Peak Island and Lobster Boat

Fairfield Porter

The Dog At The Door

Fairfield Porter

Creepo (The Dog)

Fairfield Porter

The Porch

Fairfield Porter

The Table on the Porch

Fairfield Porter


Fairfield Porter

Untitled (Seascape, Ocean Waves)

Fairfield Porter

The Narrows Clam Shack

Fairfield Porter

View of Penobscot Bay, Maine

Fairfield Porter

The Driveway

Fairfield Porter

Girl and Geranium

Fairfield Porter

Flowers On A Table

Fairfield Porter

Cooper Square

Fairfield Porter

Self Portrait in the Studio

below are photographs of Porter courtesy of the Smithsonian Archives:

Fairfield Porter Fairfield Porter Fairfield Porter Fairfield Porter

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  1. One of the most surprising things for me about moving to America was finding suburbs and diners and things that ‘look like the movies.’ American TV and movies happened in this space that was recognisable, but not the same as the spaces I lived in. A sort of parallel movie-world. And it was a startling shock (though seemed obvious straight after), that of course the spaces that are filmed ARE the spaces that American people live in.

    At my first Thanksgiving, when our host was explaining all the food, and said her husband made the crescent rolls from scratch. “Do you know what crescent rolls are?” “Of course!” I replied indignantly (and without thinking). “I’ve seen them in the movies!”
    Our hosts found it both mystifying and hilarious that we would know something so *ordinary* as a crescent roll from the movies!

    • The way american culture spread around the world is very strange. In my trips to the US I also noticed things that looked “just like the movies”.

      While high school in Brazil is a peculiar kind of hell, we have no cheerleaders, no lockers and no gigantic schools with pools, fields and multiple laboratories. I never dissected a frog. :(

      It is strange that I know how one applies to college and gets an acceptance letter. Over here, back in the day, you took a week long series of tests and your name was published on the paper if you got in. I got calls from all sorts of relatives that saw my name in the paper, in the thousands strong list.

  2. As an American who just got back from several weeks in Russia it’s so interesting to hear you say that! Despite fairly rampant anti-Americanism there, I noticed tons of posters for American movies and T shirts reading “California”, “Miami” and my favorite “Albany New York” with an Eiffel tower in the middle. I had been reflecting on what it must be like to live in Moscow but be inundated with a Hollywood version of American culture. I live in New England so I experience a similar feeling of recognition when I am in California, but I must admit it’s nice to hear that you recognize my neck of the woods! I’d love to see more of South Africa in entertainment- as it stands your blog is my main window into what appears to be a stunningly gorgeous country.

  3. Bernadette Reply

    i agree with corrine~ i so appreciate your perspective and love of your part of the world…the wedding photos and videos have knocked me out – so beautiful, your photos (wherever you go) and peeks into houses and studios….i feel like i really know a bit about south africa and cape town…almost like i’ve been there. thank you for that diana!

  4. Bernadette Reply

    one more thing re this post ~ as i looked at it yesterday, i realized that fairfield porter (is that not a great name?) could be related to a good friend of mine. My friend, pat porter lives in northern new mexico, usa. he’s a talented blacksmith, jeweler, photographer and his dad, the renowned photographer, elliot porter was fairfield’s brother. pat and his wife still visit great spruce head island…
    for me, the connection from miss moss in cape town to maine to new mexico shows the ‘amazingness ‘of the internet!

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