Fairfield Porter – cozy at first sight

Fairfield Porter, portrait of James Schuyler, 1955

The poet James Schuyler came to visit Fairfield Porter at his home in Southampton, Long Island and stayed for twelve years. Schuyler was mentally flakey, but eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1980. Porter’s life in Southampton and in Maine, and his friendship with contemporary artists and poets is recorded in his paintings. The Screen Porch, 1964, shows Schuyler  reading indoors with Porter’s children, while Porter’s wife Anne is outside looking in. The complex social and sexual ambiguity hinted at in the painting was a real part of Porter’s life. Peter Schjeldahl says that ‘Fairfield Porter, the realist painter, art critic and heroic eccentric . . . will be acknowledged as a major twentieth-century artist when we can figure out how’. Contributing to his growing reputation is Fairfield Porter – a life in art by Justin Spring, Yale University Press, a fascinating biography which details his patrician background and hospitality towards artists and poets of his generation such as Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara.

Also worth checking out (are poets the best writers on painting?) is John Ashbery on Fairfield Porter – Respect For Things As They Are.

Fairfield Porter, The Screen Porch, 1966

Posted by Robert Armstrong


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