“My paintings are often superficially characterized as “photographic”, but they are very different from the field photographs they come from. Just as fine photography involves much more than aiming a camera and pressing the shutter, fine painting requires an elaborate set of transformations. The result I aim for original and credible, free of sentimentality and cliché, and distinctively my own.”
Artist: Peter Holbrook
From: New York
Medium: Southwestern Oil Paintings
Known as one of the foremost painters of the canyons of the Southwest, Peter Holbrook has a unique and unusual method of painting. He portrays light and form with subtle and intricate patterns of color, combining the quality of abstraction with the image of reality. Holbrook’s rather loosely rendered landscapes occupy an area where photography and painting overlap.
Photography is the source which Holbrook uses and he insists that it is just as important that he be an accomplished photographer as well as a painter. Combining the elements of a series of photographs, and using his own keen sense of natural light and space, Holbrook creates his own painterly reality to represent the beauty and his vision of the natural environment. Holbrook paints the land as it is and places a strong significance on the natural elements. The grandeur of this American West is devoid of cowboys, Indians and references to man’s place in nature. That is not the story here. These landscapes are examinations of polarities: light and dark, hot and cool, flat and textured, focused and unfocused all the while emphasizing patterns, rhythms and transitions in search of ‘the music in the place.’ Although his paintings appear to be photorealistic from a distance, at closer range the viewer can see that the canvas is filled with impressionistic strokes of color. Holbrook is primarily an oil painter because of their richness and thickness and their ability to produce a saturated and active surface as well as painterly brush strokes. Holbrook is not especially interested in the photorealistic approach to painting, rather he uses the brushwork and broken colors to allow the colors to mix optically in order to suggest the landscape rather than replicate it.
Peter Holbrook was born in New York City in 1940 and lived in an upstate white collar suburb through his grade school years. His high school years were spent in Massachusetts at Deerfield Academy and his college years in New Hampshire at Dartmouth College. Summers he spent working in Maine, Cape Cod, and Colorado. After leaving Dartmouth with a B.A. degree in 1961 he spent a couple of years hitch-hiking around the world from Europe to The Middle East to India and Africa. He then put in a year at The Brooklyn Museum Art School. During the remainder of the 1960’s he lived in Chicago working at a variety of jobs (draftsman, carpenter, taxi driver) while beginning to exhibit professionally. By 1968 he was in Who’s Who and teaching at the University of Illinois (Chicago Circle Campus). In 1970 he retired to Northern California and built himself a house and studio where he now lives and works.
Holbrook has had gallery affiliations all over the country and over 50 solo exhibitions. He has won many prizes and fellowships and executed major commissions for The Clorox Corp. and The General Services Administration (the Sacramento Federal Courthouse). He has been the subject of numerous catalogs, magazine and newspaper articles, and included in many art and painting anthologies. He has work in many major museum collections including The Oakland Museum of Art, The Springfield (MO) Museum of Art, The Boise Art Museum, The Tucson Art Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Smithsonian National Collection of Fine Art.
“I’ve been painting since my early teens in the 1950’s. With a half century of work to consider, certain patterns are discernible . I have forever admired the great Realists. There is a basic visual magic in the ability of pigments to credibly translate our 3-dimensional world to the flat 2- dimensional world of paper and canvas. A good painting allows us to momentarily enter another’s consciousness, and implies dimensions beyond what we can normally see. Painting is therefore a spiritual exercise, requiring imagination to create credibility. Beyond that, the power of this translation depends on the subject and the particular point of view (physical and psychological) of the painter.”
“With the intent to share my pleasures, I have concentrated on the things of the world I most enjoy looking at. These usually exhibit forms that are the product of a life force being acted upon by a set of natural laws (gravity, decay, erosion) over their given life span. These are the most beautiful forms I know, and by repeated examination, the most meaningful. In nature this meaning is often only momentarily revealed -when the season, the weather and the light conspire to illuminate it. No one can paint fast enough to capture these moments on site, so I employ field photography for this purpose, and the comfort and convenience of my studio for working out the translation.”
“My paintings are often superficially characterized as “photographic”, but they are very different from the field photographs they come from. Just as fine photography involves much more than aiming a camera and pressing the shutter, fine painting requires an elaborate set of transformations. The result I aim for original and credible, free of sentimentality and cliché, and distinctively my own.”.