Monday, April 20, 2009

Savoring a Legacy

Savoring a Legacy
(get this book!)
By Tom Wachunas

“Clyde Singer’s America” is the catalogue that accompanied the major 2008 joint exhibition at the Canton Museum of Art and the Butler Institute of American Art, and it’s a finalist for a 2009 Ohioana Library Association Award. As exhibition catalogues go, this one is a real gem both for its subject, painter Clyde Singer (1908-1999), and the solid writing by M.J. Albacete (executive director of the Canton Museum of Art), with an additional essay by Nannette V. Maciejunes (executive director of the Columbus Museum of Art) and Christopher S. Duckworth (executive editor at the Columbus Museum of Art). The book’s 123 full-color reproductions are remarkably true to the original paintings, offering a comprehensive (and much needed) tribute to an artist who can fairly be called the under-heralded last master of the American Scene genre.

The Maciejunes-Duckworth essay expertly addresses Singer’s work in the historic context of the Ashcan School and the disciples who expanded its gritty urban realism by painting a broader Midwestern milieu, effectively capturing the American heartland in all its industrial and rural richness.

But it is Albacete’s sure, easy writing style that paints for us a warm and resonating biography of Singer – the man and the artist. Albacete delivers this compelling portrait with the same delightful vigor with which Singer himself lived and painted. The author’s commanding insights, informed by personal acquaintance and interviews with the artist, will leave you, I’m quite sure, with an abiding respect and admiration for a prolific (nearly 4,000 paintings) painter.

And if some art lovers may find it sad that Singer remained steadfast, even stubborn in eschewing the modernist trends that grew up all around him during his long, fruitful career, this book is a lovingly compiled record that surely points to a greater sadness: the passing of a vibrant era in both American painting and American living.

Photo: “Self Portrait #26” by Clyde Singer, oil, 26”x 16”, figure # 79 in the catalogue “Clyde Singer’s America,” published 2008 by The Kent State University Press, in cooperation with the Canton Museum of Art. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 2008001488. ISBN 978-0-87338-921-1. Available for purchase at the Canton Museum of Art, or

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