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 Robert Griffing  (1940 - )

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: super real Indian genre and figure painting, illustration

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Robert Griffing
An example of work by Robert Griffing
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Robert Griffing was born in 1940, growing up in Linesville, Pennsylvania.  He
roamed the fields and beaches around Pymatuning Lake, collecting stone artifacts, which increased his love of history and native cultures.

Griffing is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, studying illustration.  After a thirty year career in advertising, he began to paint, in 1991, the Eastern Woodland Indian of the 18th century, an early fascination.  His paintings focus on the time of chaos and uncertainty for the woodland tribes as they struggled to survive the encroachment of Europeans.

Griffing's illustrational, photographic realism is minutely-detailed and tightly-blended. He is aided by an extensive library of books, historical papers, journals, and his historian and other friends who provide information and act as models in some of his paintings.

In 1993, U.S. ART Magazine listed Robert Griffing as an artist to watch for in 1994. The same magazine later listed him as one of the Top 25 selling artists for 1994.  The November 1995 issue of U.S. ART featured an article on Eastern Woodland Indians, and chose Griffing's painting Logan's Revenge" for the cover.

Robert Griffing hopes his paintings bring notice to what he views as a neglected period of history.  Duane James Ray, President of the Seneca Nation of Indians, has said: "The attention Griffing gives to the accurate portrayal and detail of the Iroquois is remarkable and rarely seen in the work of other non-native artists.  His paintings allow the viewer to have a special understanding of how the Iroquois culture evolved with European influences."

John Giblin, Former Site Administrator of Fort Pitt and Bushy Run Battlefield, states, "To my knowledge, not one person in this century has done more to rejuvenate interest in the history, art and culture of early western Pennsylvania.  His work has also given rise to a new excitement for the cultural mystique of the eastern Native American."

While Griffing is best known for his images of the Eastern Indian, he also explores his own Scottish ancestry for ideas and subjects for his paintings.  The artist traveled to Scotland in 1996 to research his lineage.

A book, The Art of Robert Griffing, with over 75 color plates, is a complete collection of his work, from his earliest to his most recent paintings, carefully woven with the history and artifacts that serve as his inspiration.

Sources include:

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, II:
Robert Griffing grew up in Linesville, Pennsylvania, where he roamed the fields and beaches around Pymatuning Lake collecting stone artifacts. At an early age, he gained an appreciation for the area's history, its natural beauty and the region's first inhabitants, the Eastern Woodland Indians, which especially fascinated him.

After graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and a highly successful thirty-year career in commercial art, Griffing returned to the subject of his early fascination, painting the Eastern Woodland Indian of the 18th century. He decided to devote his time and energy to his passion after receiving an enthusiastic response to his early paintings and prints. His work draws attention to a neglected area of our nation's history, when one culture was being supplanted by another, and great changes were initiated that set the scene for the next hundred years of settlement.

"The Eastern Woodland Indians have been neglected by historians," Griffing states. "In most schools American history starts at the Revolutionary War. This Indian group was in this region well before the French and Indian War in which Western Pennsylvania played an active role. Everything started with Washington's presence in Jumonville, which then led to Fort Necessity and then the French and Indian War. My paintings depict the conflicts of the 18th century."

When it comes to historical accuracy, Griffing treats both sides of the conflict with the same care and precision. The clothing, uniforms, weapons and accoutrements illustrated are all correct and authentic to the period, as well as the backgrounds, such as the forests, the rivers and streams, and the dwellings and fortifications. The accuracy of the paintings comes from Griffing's love of history, knowledge of the woods and his natural artistic talent. Another element enhancing his artwork is his participation in "living history," where he is able to actually experience, as closely as possible, living conditions of the past. He believes that, while it is one thing to read about an historic trek or canoe trip, it is much better to experience it yourself, covering the same ground, wearing period clothing and using only authentic gear and weapons. Of re-enactors Griffing says, "Some of my closest friends today are relatively recent acquaintances I have made at re-enactments. To tap into the knowledge they have . . . is very important to me." In addition to his extensive library of books, historical papers and journals, Griffing is grateful to his historian and re-enactor friends who provide information and act as models for some of the characters in the paintings.

In 1993, "US Art" magazine listed Griffing as an artist to watch for in 1994. The following year, the same magazine listed him as one of the top 25 selling artists of that year, and 1997 marked the fourth straight year he has made that list. The Fort Pitt Associate and Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission with the John Forbes Medal recently honored Griffing.


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