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 Philip Perkins  (1907 - 1970)

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Lived/Active: Tennessee      Known for: abstraction-geometric, religious

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Philip Perkins
An example of work by Philip Perkins
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography is provided by Dan Hardison.

From a small town in west Tennessee, Philip Perkins became an abstract painter widely acknowledged for his work. He is best known for his geometric, cubist influenced work of the forties. While most abstract art used flat unshaded color areas, Perkins shaded geometric forms through deepening colors to give the work more body and a sense of rhythm.

During the fifties, his work became more abstract expressionist in style with more spontaneous brush strokes and less distinct forms. It was during the fifties that he began a series of religious work in a semi-abstract style. By the late sixties, his paintings had become more hard edge abstract through the use of bold shapes and the heavy application of paint with the pallet knife.

Philip Perkins was born in 1907 in Waverly, Tennessee. He studied at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee from 1925 to 1926 and at the Chicago Art Institute from 1926 to 1931.

In 1932 he moved to Paris, France and studied with Jean Marchaud and Louis Marcoussis until 1934. He continued his studies with Fernand Leger from 1934 to 1937. In 1934 he exhibited at the Salon dAutomne and the Salon de Tuilleries in Paris. Until 1937, Perkins work was from nature. He felt that one could not attempt to create form and use color arbitrarily without first going through a long period of discipline of observation.

Perkins left Paris in 1940 and moved to New York City where he shared a studio with Yves Tanguy. In 1947 he participated in the International Surrealist Exhibition, Galerie Maeght, Paris, France. Perkins returned to Nashville in 1948 to teach at the University of Tennessee at Nashville.

Emily Genauer, a renowned art critic from New York, selected his painting DEBRIS OF SUMMER to be included in her book "Best of Art," a survey of the best contemporary paintings that was published in 1948. Also included was work by Yves Tanguy, Marc Chagall, Henry Varnum Poor, Stuart Davis, Walt Kuhn, and Max Weber. She describes the Perkins painting by saying,

"Debris of Summer is the most romantic of pictures, full of reverie and imagination and poetic allusion."

In 1953, after a visit to Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church and Garden in Sherwood, Tennessee, Perkins offered to paint a new altarpiece for the church a gift.

After months of work, the completed triptych was installed and presented to the church on Easter, 1954. The triptych depicted the baptism of Christ and was painted in a style reminiscent of El Greco. A fire in 1960 destroyed the church and the painting.

In 1955 he received a two-year fellowship from the School of International Painting in Segovia, Spain. For the next four years Perkins lived, painted and exhibited in Spain and on the Isle of Ibiza.

Perkins returned to Paris to live and paint in 1959. In 1960, during his one-man exhibition at the Galerie Clert, Paris, the prominent European art critic Barnet D. Conlan wrote a series of articles on Perkins that was published in European and American publications. Conlan wrote that,
"Unlike many abstract artists of recent times, Perkins has had a long training in figurative art . . . He thus acquired an intimate acquaintance with modern French art and with the tradition from which it springs. It is this, which has enabled him to make a synthesis of both tendencies in a style that is neither abstract nor figurative, but a new compound possessing the qualities of both. And because of this, one might say he is one of the most advanced painters in Paris at the present moment."

In 1961 Perkins again returned to Nashville to live. He died there of cancer in 1970 at the age of 63.

On Easter, 2001, the half-size Study for the Epiphany Mission Triptych, painted by Philip Perkins in 1953, was presented to Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church in Sherwood, Tennessee, in his memory.

" I use the forms of nature symbolically. Here, the violence of the wind, the flash of lightning, the vortex of the water are symbols of the struggle of inner forces. The spectator should interpret this struggle according to his own terms, for by so doing, he may translate the artists language into his own. We participate in any work of art only relatively to that state of consciousness which we bring to it." Philip Perkins

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Philip Perkins studied at the Chicago Art Institute from 1926 to 1931.  In 1932 he moved to Paris, France and studied with Jean Marchaud and Louis Marcoussis until 1934.  He continued his studies from 1934 to 1937 with Fernard Leger.  In 1934 he exhibited his work at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Tuilleries in Paris, France.

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