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 Nancy Dean Mercury  (21st century)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: landscape, figure, portrait

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Biography from Isaacs Art Center at Hawaii Preparatory Academy:
Nancy Dean Mercury paints in the "plein-air" method, which originated in the 15th century and was later refined by the 19th-century Impressionists. Such celebrated American artists as John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, and William Merritt Chase adopted the method and helped spread its basic tenets, which require the artist to capture the composition, color harmonies, and value structure of the painting "at the first", creating a sense of directness, immediacy, and spontaneity. Artists such as Murphy who use this technique quickly perceive and digest reality, then weave their impressions into a more dream-like visual representation.

Mercury has had numerous shows in her native California where she began to paint and eventually studied at Sacramento City College before graduating from the University of Arizona in 1980. Says Mercury: "I begin with quick warm-up charcoal drawings in two to five minute poses. These quick gesture drawings are erased selectively, leaving a memory and trail of ghost images that appear behind the figure. The warm-up drawings lead to staging the model for painting a longer pose of one to two hours. I premix my own tubes of oils into a limited and rich harmony of cool blue violets and warm earth oxides.

She also paints "Alla Prima", a method of completing work in one session, and to divine what is whole and complete throughout with the addition of each new paint stroke and mass of color. Sometimes the painting is finished very quickly and left as evidence of that rare perfection of spontaneity and immediacy that reworking a painting often subdues and strains with effort.

The "Alla Prima" technique, emphasizes the contrast between light and dark (warm and cool) colors and is, in Mercury's own words "a dash from knowledge to expression."

Nancy Dean Mercury is presently in Geneva, Switzerland, doing advanced work at the Beaux Arts de Geneve.



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