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 Dolya Goutman  (1915 - 2001)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania / Russian Federation      Known for: expressionism, set design, geometric, teaching

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Doyla Goutman is primarily known as Dolya Goutman

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Dolya Goutman
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from artist/art writer Fred McCraw, 10/2002. It is both a history and a tribute. Dolya Goutman died December 15th 2001 at the age of 86. He was one of McCraw's teachers.

Dolya Goutman (1915-2001) came to the U.S. from Russia by way of Latvia and Holland, arriving with his parents in 1931. He was a boy of 16 in that year. His most vivid childhood memories were those of an exile waiting for visas in foreign lands. He had only early memories of Russia. But his father, a prosperous Czarist industrialist, reminded him often that he had lost everything in 1917 because of Lenin and the Bolshevik revolution. "My father did not permit even the mention of Lenin's name in our house," Goutman recalled recently.

Goutman went to art school in Detroit (Cranbrook?), and later enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago where he won a $2,500 Traveling Fellowship. He had wanted to go to China and India, but was denied visas because he still had not yet qualified for U.S. citizenship. So, he used the money, a munificent sum in the 1940s, to go to California, where an uncle resided.

Once there, he found work in Paramount Studios, eventually becoming an art director of that studio. Goutman created elaborate and memorable murals for Paramount's film biography of Paul Gauguin, "The Moon and Sixpence." That movie must have made a lasting impression on him because years later he wrote to me (in 1983) about my paintings and mentioned a 1978 book about Gauguin that he had recently read.

He wrote, "I like your preoccupation with the kind of shapes you have been pre-occupied with. The color is strong. The design is sweeping. Every bit of the canvas is integrated. Read 'The Writings of a Savage' by Paul Gauguin (Edited by Daniel Gueren. The Viking Press Copyright Viking Penguin Inc. 1978). You would like what Gauguin says about color."

I did enjoy the book, and learned some important things from it, not the least of which was that Gauguin was not the egoist I had been conditioned to think he was.

Goutman sometimes painted geometric abstractions. But mostly he painted expressionistically. His art tied to the dark images of German Expressionists, images that were cutting-edge when Goutman was a boy in Holland. But Goutman seldom painted darkly. Goutman's expressionist paintings were much more colorful (Gauguin again?) and remained at least as dynamic and full of energy as those of the angry young Germans.

Goutman spoke recently of his work for the State Department in a post World War II Army rehabilitation project. (He and other artists pioneered art therapy treatments for psychoneurotic combat veterans in soldier's and sailor's hospitals both here and abroad.) He had left Paramount, perhaps intending to return. But he told why he did not when he said in an interview he gave for an exhibition of his art at Villanova University in 1999: "After that (the hospital therapy tours), Hollywood became rather insignificant to me."

So, Goutman completed his master's work at the University of Pennsylvania and joined the faculty at the Moore College of Art. He became head of the painting department and eventually professor emeritus.

He was an insightful teacher. He once wrote to me as follows: "I do, it seems, have the power of feeling that some work by an artist has been painted in his 'sad' days. So what? It is not necessarily that the painting is bad---it just puts you (the onlooker) in a sad mood. The mystery lies in the fact that all of us, all humans are different, react differently, are a product of our own individual background and childhood and we perform differently in 'similar' circumstances."

"Once when I was on the verge of deciding I was going to be psychoanalyzed, I decided against it because I feared that my painting will cease to have the power I felt it had. I wanted to retain my neurosis so that my painting would show my neurotic tendencies. One can go on and on and speculate on the mystery of creation and find no answer. . . My advice to my students: paint on good and bad days on the same painting. Don't try to analyze---just let yourself go."
Addendum from Fred McCraw:

Mr. Goutman's obituary in the "Philadelphia Inquirer" reported that he died on 12/15/01 at age 86 and that he came to America at age 16 (no year given).

However, the Villanova art gallery two years earlier had published an article reporting that he was 81 at the time of his one-man show in August 1999 at Villanova. Goutman had attended the opening. Presumably, he was aware that his age was being reported at that time as 81. These bits of information from two thoroughly believable sources obviously are conflicting.

Here is a bit of a logic trail attempting to resolve the question thus raised.

Goutman's family no doubt provided data to the "Inquirer." That information, of course, could be wrong but likely was not. The most riveting fact, in my view, is that the family recalled that he arrived here at age 16. This is something all in his family surely would have known, as it no doubt was part of family lore. As he had only a minimal accentalmost nonein later years, he probably did arrive while in his teens.

The undated Villanova exhibition article said he arrived in the U.S. in 1931. I'm inclined to believe that date. Jewish immigration was not easy in the later '30s. The U.S. was resistant to Jewish immigration through most of that decade. Also, 1931 squares with the "Inquirer" dates.

So, if he was 86 in December 2001 as the "Inquirer" reported, then he was born in 1915. Further, if he came here in 1931 as Villanova reported, and was 16 when he arrived (as the family recalled), then he also was born in 1915. As these pieces of corroborating information come from sources independent as to place and time, that's the best we are likely to get. Accordingly, this biography accepts the 1915 birth date and rejects the suggestion that Mr. Goutman was 81 in 1999.

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