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Rackstraw Downes

 (born 1939)
Rackstraw Downes is active/lives in New York, Texas / England.  Rackstraw Downes is known for panoramic realist landscape and marine painting-plein aire, prints.

Rackstraw Downes

Biography from the Archives of askART

Rackstraw Downes was born in Kent, England in 1939. Often described as a realist painter, Downes prefers not to use that term. He views the act of seeing and the art of representation as culturally taught, with different cultures accepting different delineations of the world as realistic. He does not think of himself as a landscape painter, but as a painter of his surroundings—his environment.

Often painted in a panoramic format, Downes's images evince careful attention to details as well as to broad expanses of their surroundings. Created plein air in locations as diverse as metropolitan New York, rural Maine, and coastal and inland Texas, and without resorting to the use of photography, his compositions feature horizons that bend according to the way the eye naturally perceives.

Downes often works in series, examining single scenes from multiple angles, over time, and in the process reveals changing qualities of light and shadow as well as changes in his own point of view. Rackstraw Downes earned a BA from Cambridge University (1961) and a BFA and MFA from Yale University (1964).

He has received numerous awards, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2009); John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1988); and National Endowment for the Arts Grant (1980). He was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1999).

His works are in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many others. Rackstraw

Downes lives in New York City and Presidio, Texas.

"Rackstraw Downes", PBS-art21, (Accessed 01/02/2014)

Biography from the Archives of askART
American realist painter Rackstraw Downes, was born in England in 1939. He was educated at Cambridge University there, and at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

He worked for many years as an art critic before devoting himself to painting. Influenced by Fairfield Porter, Downes has painted highly detailed landscapes and cityscapes of the northern East Coast in oil and watercolor. They explore the effects of light and atmosphere in the tradition of John Constable, but the canvases are long, horizontal panoramas of usually stark scenes devoid of human figures.

Downes subject matter tends toward industrialized rural landscape and urban scenes. In recent years, his palette has brightened from the earlier subdued tones, while exploring geometric shapes with an almost minimalist, planar emphasis that gives the paintings a brittle quality. Some specific subjects include rural Maine; under the Gowanus Bridge in Brooklyn, New York; inside the World Trade Center, New York City; and the Donald Judd structures in Marfa, Texas.

He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998, a Creative Artists Public Service Award, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He became a member of the American Academy, and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1999.

Downes has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, New York City, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, as well as New York City galleries like Marlborough, Richard York, Hirschl and Adler, Robert Miller. His work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Les Krantz, "American Artists, Illustrated Survey of Leading Contemporary Artists"

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About  Rackstraw Downes

Born:  1939 - Kent, England
Known for:  panoramic realist landscape and marine painting-plein aire, prints