1 of 7 images

Vance Kirkland
Untitled (Five Million Years Ago)

1945

About

Dated: 1945.34 (painting number 34 from 1945). Presented in a custom frame with all archival materials, outer dimensions measure 30 ½ x 38 ½ x 1 ¼ inches. Image size is 22 ½ x 30 ½ inches. Exhibited: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1947 As an artist and educator, Vance Kirkland almost single-handedly brought modern art to Denver. At a time when conservative tastes ruled, he came to Colorado and worked in a manner that emphasized process more than subject matter. Rather than pleasing landscapes, he created paintings that expressed the dynamic forces of the universe, often with results that were strange and otherworldly. Standing on principle, he never wavered from his conviction that the arts were respected disciplines, and he constantly pushed for the inclusion of modern art in Denver’s public institutions. Deliberately working away from the major art centers, Kirkland’s varied art styles were determined by his own compass yet were nationally recognized. Growing up in Ohio, Kirkland began his art studies at the Cleveland School of Art, where he received a diploma in painting and a bachelor’s degree in art education. The former curator of the Denver Art Museum, Diane Vanderlip points to a failed watercolor class as an indicator of both his future stylistic development and his early self-confidence. When the teacher criticized Kirkland for colors that fought with each other, the young man listened to his own muse rather than pass the course. Upon graduation, he was offered a job at Princeton, but when the university discovered just how young he was, they withdrew their offer. He then accepted an offer at the University of Denver to establish their art department in 1929. While most schools shunted art off to the side, Kirkland developed the program as a combination of academics and art. He also got officials to accept nude figure drawing. However, a parting of the ways came when he and the Provost clashed over degree recognition. The subsequent establishment of his Kirkland School of Art became a cultural beacon in this Rocky Mountain capitol. From 1927 to 1944, he worked in a style he referred to as “Designed Realism,” in which natural forms were highly stylized in rhythmic shapes. Working totally in watercolor, he developed an individualized method of applying dots to a saturated color surface. By the end of the thirties, Kirkland’s paintings became larger and more energetic. Hiking in the mountains, the artist was inspired by the unusual shapes of high-altitude plants and trees stunted and bent by the fierce winds. Taking his painting gear, he had to add antifreeze to his paints in order to work in these demanding conditions. Departing from his ordinary perspective, Kirkland created compositions of open spaces and wild linear elements, which he increasingly liberated from any specific representation. In his fantastic imaginings, he had an affinity with Surrealism, although he had no interest in their Freudian pursuits. Kirkland received national attention with inclusion in exhibitions, such as “Abstract and Surrealist American Art” at the Art Institute of Chicago and “Reality and Fantasy” at the Walker Art Center. In 1946, Knoedler and Company in New York invited him to be one of their artists, which brought solo shows and group exhibitions with artists like Max Ernst. Beginning in the 1940s, he also became more active with the Denver Art Museum, serving in various honorary and formal positions. Both in his capacity as board member and curator, he relentlessly pressed for the recognition of contemporary art and artists. At the same time, his prestige grew when the University of Denver invited him back: this time as Director of the School of Art, Professor of Painting, and Chairman of the Department of Arts and Humanities. In 1941, he married Anne Fox Oliphant Olson, a librarian, and their home was a center for Denver’s cultural life with evening salons and musical performances. His first non-objective painting, Red Abstraction (1951) initiated his break with his past art. Looking back, Kirkland said, “There had to be a way of creating something and I became interested in abstraction.’ Deciding to forego watercolor, he experimented with paint and materials, particularly with inventive ways of mixing them. He had always been intrigued by the quality of resistance, and now he used the combination of oil and water to cause unexpected effects. The surface of his canvases became almost like breathing skins. Committed to his new direction, Kirkland didn’t flinch when Knoedler’s dropped him for abandoning his commercially successful style. Moving to greater heights, Kirkland began painting large canvases that suggested cosmic phenomena, some of which he called “nebula.” Although the fifties saw the birth of space exploration, the artist deliberately avoided any astronomical study, preferring instead to paint the mystery beyond his knowledge. When he saw pre-Hubble photographs that looked startlingly similar, he decided to stop. Towards the end of his career, he returned to his earlier practice of layering the surface with dots. The works that first appeared in 1963 were geometric abstractions that share some of the qualities of contemporary Op Art. These later paintings were painstakingly done. Always a tireless worker, he pursued his art even after hepatitis made painting more difficult and physically excruciating, devising a system that suspended him over his canvases. His studio on Pearl Street in Denver is now the Vance Kirkland Foundation and Museum, a significant center for mid-century modernism in painting and the decorative arts. © David Cook Galleries

Details

  • Movement & Style
  • Condition
    Excellent.
  • Dimensions

    H 30.5 in. x W 38.5 in. x D 1.25 in.

    H 77.47 cm x W 97.79 cm x D 3.18 cm

  • Gallery location
    Denver, CO
  • Reference number
    LU2732775761
  • Seller reference number
    22569

Shipping, Returns & Payment

  • Shipping

    Global Shipping Available

    View details
  • Return Policy

    Returns can be initiated within 7 days of delivery by contacting 1stdibs.

    View details
  • Online Payment Methods
    1stdibs accepts the following payment methods
  • Item Invoice
    Generate an invoice that you can customize and print.

About the Seller

Top Seller
Vetted
1stdibs seller since 2013
Typical response time: 6 hrs
Located in Denver, CO
You may also contact the seller by phoneCall seller through 1stdibs

Why Shop on 1stdibs?

Learn More

Only Vetted, Professional Sellers

Buyer Protection Guaranteed

Fully Insured Global Deliveries

More From This Seller
$24,500

Colorado Landscape (View from Red Rocks looking...

Vance Kirkland

Watercolor

Dated 1943.7 (Number 7). Presented in a custom frame, outer dimensions measure 36 ¼ x 44 ¾ x 2 inches. Image size is 22 ½ x 31 inches. As an artist and educator, Vance Kirkland alm...

$5,500

Untitled (Sunset, Along the Front Range, Colorado)

Charles Partridge Adams

Watercolor

Original Watercolor on paper. Housed in a custom frame with archival materials and Museum Glass (UV Protection/Anti-reflective). Framed dimensions measure 14 ½ x 17 ½ x ¾ inches; ima...

$1,500

Untitled (Taos House Adobe)

james Butler

Watercolor, Archival Paper

Housed in a custom frame with all archival materials (anti-reflective glass and 8-ply mat). Outer dimensions measure 18 ¼ x 22 ¼ x ¾ inches. Image size is 11 x 14 ¾ inches. A long...

$1,950

Pair of Landscape Paintings

Zona Wheeler

Watercolor

Each is housed in a custom frame with all archival materials. Overall dimensions as displayed are 31 x 16.5 x 1 inches. Individual Dimensions: Above: 14 ½ x 16 ½ x 1 inches (fram...

You May Also Like
Price Upon Request

From Monkey to Man

Jirayr Hamparzoom Zorthian

Watercolor

Jirayr Hamparzoom Zorthian was born April 14, 1911 in Kutahya, Turkey, of Armenian parents. At the age of three, he showed considerable talent in drawing and painting. Zorthian ...

$1,500

Fairies

Terry Durham

Ink, Watercolor, Pen

An original pen and ink and watercolor by English artist Terry Durham (1936-2013) titled Fairies", c. 1968. Hand signed by Durham lower right. A really well detailed illustratio...

$5,000

Surrealist Composition with Nude, Door and Key

Camille Bryen

Watercolor

CAMILLE BRYEN 1907-1977 [CAMILLE BRIAND] Nantes 1907 – 1977 Paris (French) Title: Surrealist Composition with Nude, Door and Key, ca 1935 Technique: Original Signed Graphite D...

$3,100

Angels (Homage to Marc Chagall)

Moshe Castel

Watercolor

MOSHE (Elazar) CASTEL 1909-1991 Jerusalem 1909 - 1991 Tel Aviv (Israeli) Title: Angels (Homage to Marc Chagall) Technique: Original hand signed Watercolour on paper size...

Price Upon Request

Self Portrait

Horst Janssen

Paper, Ink, Watercolor

The overall dimensions, including the frame, are 33 1/8 x 29 3/4 inches.

$8,500

New Bedford Widow

James Meikle Guy

Paper, Gouache

JAMES MEIKLE GUY (1909 - 1983) New Bedford Widow, 1941 Gouache on paperboard 11 x 15 inches (sight) Signed and dated at lower right: Guy 41 James Meikle Guy was an artist and ...

$4,000

Oedipus And The Sphinx

Eugene Berman

India Ink, Gouache

Initialed in cartouche bottom center Provenance: Robert L. B. Tobin Foundation Matted but Unframed

$3,000

Leptis Magnus: Columns of the Theatre and Statues

Eugene Berman

Watercolor

Leptis Magnus: Columns of the Theatre and Statues. 968 Ink and Gouache on paper 9 1/2 × 7 1/4 in Work is unframed Signature: Initialed E.B. lower center McNay Art Institute San An...