Reviews

‘The Figure in American Art: 1766 –1971’ at Debra Force Fine Art

New York

Philip Evergood, The Future Belongs to Them, 1938–53, oil on canvas, 60" x 40". TIMOTHY PYLE, LIGHT BLUE STUDIO/COURTESY DEBRA FORCE FINE ART, INC.

Philip Evergood, The Future Belongs to Them, 1938–53, oil on canvas, 60" x 40".

TIMOTHY PYLE, LIGHT BLUE STUDIO/COURTESY DEBRA FORCE FINE ART, INC.

This engaging show assembled 45 figurative paintings by American artists, ranging from Benjamin West (b. 1738) to Grace Hartigan (b. 1922) and dating from 1766 to 1971. A 1953 untitled painting by Hartigan is a reminder that, even during the age of Abstract Expressionism, the figure often asserted itself.

Between West and Hartigan came William Merritt Chase (b. 1849), here represented by Roland Dana Chase (1905), a portrait of his toddler son in a smock hitched up with a red belt. Roughly contemporary with Chase were American Impressionists Edward Henry Potthast (b. 1857) and Childe Hassam (b. 1859). The Ashcan artists were there, too: George Bellows (b.1882), Everett Shinn (b. 1876), and William Glackens (b. 1870).

Representing the ’30s and later, Ben Shahn’s gouache-and-ink on paper Sacco’s Family after the Verdict (ca. 1931–32) was especially striking, as was Romare Bearden’s 1971 fabric collage on canvas depicting three women.

Simply in terms of figure painting, Philip Evergood’s large canvas The Future Belongs to Them (1938–53) stole the show. Employing an almost medieval flatness, it portrays six men and women, some black and some white, standing on a rooftop, lifting their children up toward the sky.

A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 82.

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