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Ivan Albright






 

Ivan Albright

Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (1897 - 1983) was a magic realist painter and artist, most renowned for his self-portraits, character studies, and still lifes.

Ivan Albright and his identical twin Malvin were born near Chicago in North Harvey, Illinois, to Adam Emory Albright and Clara Wilson Albright. Their father was a landscape painter, and came from a family of master gunsmiths, whose original name was "Albrecht". The brothers were inseparable during childhood, and throughout much of their young adulthood. Both enrolled in The Art Institute of Chicago, a coin-flip deciding that Ivan would study painting and Malvin sculpture. Ivan particularly admired the work of El Greco and Rembrandt, but was quick to develop a style all his own.

Among Albright's typically dark, mysterious works are some of the most meticulously executed paintings ever made, often requiring years to complete. Lace curtains or splintered wood would be recreated using brushes of a single hair. The amount of effort that went into his paintings made him quite possessive of them. Even during the Great Depression he charged 30 to 60 times what comparable artists were charging, with the result that sales were infrequent. In order to survive he relied on the support of his father, and took odd carpentering jobs. An early painting of his, The Lineman won an award and made the cover of Electric Light and Power, a trade magazine. However his stooped and forlorn portrayal caused controversy among the readership, who did not consider such an image representative. The editors later distanced themselves from Albright's work.

Albright focused on a few themes through most of his works, particularly death, life, the material and the spirit, and the effects of time. He painted very complex works, and their titles matched their complexity. He would not name a painting until it was complete, at which time he would come up with several possibilities, more poetic than descriptive, before deciding on one. Such an example is Poor Room - There is No Time, No End, No Today, No Yesterday, No Tomorrow, Only the Forever, and Forever and Forever Without End (The Window), the last two words actually describing the painting (it was as such the painting is generally referred). Another painting, And Man Created God in His Own Image, was called God Created Man in His Own Image when it toured the South. One of his most famous paintings, which took him some ten years to complete, was titled That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door), which won top prize at three major exhibitions in New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia in 1941. The prize at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York earned him a $3,500 purchase award and a place in the permanent collection, but, not willing to part with the work for less than $125,000, Albright took the First medal instead, allowing him to keep the painting.

In 1943 he was commissioned to create the title painting for Albert Lewin's film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. His realistic, but exaggerated, depictions of decay and corruption made him very well suited to undertake such a project. His brother was chosen to do the original uncorrupted painting of Gray, but another artist's was used in the film. Ivan's was a great success, and made him somewhat of an instant celebrity.

Albright was a prolific artist throughout his life, working as a printer and engraver as well as a painter. He made his own paints and charcoal, and carved his own elaborate frames. He was a stickler for detail, creating elaborate setups for paintings before starting work. He was obsessive about lighting to the point that he painted his studio black, and wore black clothing to cut out potential glare.

 

 


Among Those Left
1928


 


And God Created Man in His Own Image


 


Fleeting Time: Thou Hast Left Me Old


 


Smaller than Tears Are the Little Blue Flowers
1928


 


Poor Room--There Is No Time, No End, No Today, No Yesterday, No Tomorrow,
Only the Forever, and Forever and Forever without End (The Window)


 


Heavy the Oar to Him Who Is Tired, Heavy the Coat, Heavy the Sea
1929
 


Self-Portrait
1935


 


Self-Portrait
1981


 


Self-Portrait
1934


 


That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door)
1931-41


 


And Man Created God in His Own Image
1930-31


 


The Picture of Dorian Gray


 


Beneath My Feet
1929


 


The Farmer's Kitchen
1933


 


Hail to the Pure (Portrait of Chigi Piedra)
 1976


 


Self-Portrait


 


Into the World There Came a Soul Named Ida



 


The Vermonter



 


There Were No Flowers Tonight



 


Fleeting Time Thou Has Left Me Old



 


Self-Portrait 55 Division Street

 
 

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