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Norman Rubington (1921-1991) -- Full Circle: New York, Paris, Rome, London, New York

July 14 - October 9, 2005


(above: Norman Rubington (1921-1991), Self Portrait, 1938, pencil on paper, 13.5 x 8.5 inches. Courtesy Norman Rubington Gallery)


Norman Rubington (1921-1991) -- Full Circle: New York, Paris, Rome, London, New York is a retrospective of the works of Norman Rubington, brought together at the Berman Museum of Art -- for the first time -- through courtesy of the Norman Rubington Gallery. The exhibition includes sketchbooks, original works and illustrated publications from throughout the artist's prolific career.

Norman Rubington: Introduction

Norman Rubington: Full Circle charts the course of an artist whose career parallels those of some of the great names in mid-20th century art history, even as he stands apart in his desire not to emulate but to reexamine methods of expression in a distinctive voice. He was deliberate in his early studies, attending Yale University School of Fine Arts,. After a three-year stint in the Army rendering reconnaissance maps, he moved to Paris to study with a group of expatriate American artists, supported in his work by the G.I. Bill.

He found a level of respect for artists in Europe that was not common in the United States and this support encouraged Rubington to explore and challenge the established schools of Cubism and Expressionist painting. He was considered one of the most talented of the younger American artists in Paris and was selected for the Salon d'Automne in 1948, a rare distinction for an American. "When I came to Paris, I felt like coming home, I could breathe. People asked me what I did. I said I was an artist. They said, 'Ah, an artist.'" (The New York Times Magazine, August 15, 1948).

Rubington went on to compete for and achieve the Prix de Rome in 1951, a Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in 1954, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1958; he was a resident of the MacDowell Colony in 1970. This full circle of recognition, however, did not lift him into the company of the established New York School of painters and he was solitary in pursuit of his craft. His approach to painting (and other media such as etching, watercolor and pastel) had an expressionist tone grounded in representation. His range of subject matter was broad and he would focus on depicting series of like compositions (still lifes, seascapes, nudes) through a variety of approaches.

His most poignant subject was humanity on the fringe. His depictions of women capture a strange beauty and confidence, laced with a sense of elegance and humor. Rubington himself was known as a great character, personable yet private, who did not discuss his philosophy or inspirations related to his art because he did not believe collectors, critics, even his friends and family would be able to identify with his motivations and approach.

It is perhaps because of this lack of self-promotion and a general disdain for conformity that Rubington did not receive the level of critical acclaim that he deserved. Nevertheless, his work is a solid confirmation of skill and accomplishment; the compositions express a sense of energy and place utilizing rich color and controlled line tempered by spirited brushstrokes. Rubington describes his approach as "...[using] distortion to deliberately translate our emotions into plastic terms... it's more complex than cubism or impressionism, for instance, and it is definitely opposed to romanticism." (New Haven Evening Register, March 9, 1951)

Rubington died on January 1, 1991. While his papers were donated to the Beinecke Library at Yale University by his brother Earl Rubington, his remaining canvases, prints, works on paper and bronzes were entrusted to his cousin Ann May Greene, who has worked tirelessly to establish Rubington's legacy as an important figure in 20th century painting.

She and associate Norman Weinberg approached me about creating a focused installation documenting Rubington's career. The work was interesting and complex, and the context of the artist's life added an element of interest. We were fortunate to have examples from the breadth of the artist's career and the installation conveys Rubington's own sense of place during a career that is international in scope.

I extend my thanks to Ann May Greene and Norman Weinberg for their diligent and enthusiastic collaboration in this process. I am grateful for the contributions of Joan Paaske who provided insight on several of the works represented in the exhibition and to Mrs. Greene's daughter, Claudia Anastasio, who developed the "Full Circle" metaphor. Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Block who generously agreed to lend Borzoi and Family to the exhibition, a poignant portrait of two women infused with a bit of humor and drama.

Lisa Tremper Hanover
July 2005


About the author:

Lisa Tremper Hanover is Director of the Berman Museum of Art.


Images from the exhibition:


Norman Rubington (1921-1991), Don Quixote, 1951, etching, 17.25 x 13.5 inches. Courtesy Norman Rubington Gallery


Norman Rubington (1921-1991), Manhattan #6, 1958, oil on canvas, 77.5 x 45.2 inches. Courtesy Norman Rubington Gallery


Norman Rubington (1921-1991), Italian Landscape, 1975, oil on canvas, 28.74 x 48 inches. Courtesy Norman Rubington Gallery 


Norman Rubington (1921-1991), Borzoi and Family  1979, oil on canvas, 46 x 66 inches.  Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Block


Norman Rubington (1921-1991), Fun Girls, 1979, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 47 inches. Courtesy Norman Rubington Gallery


Norman Rubington (1921-1991), Black Silk, 1985, oil on canvas, 62 x 48 inches. Courtesy Norman Rubington Gallery


For more information on the artist, visit www.normanrubington.com.

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