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Self Portrait in Tank Top

Rivers, Larry

Self Portrait in Tank Top

pastel & charcoal on paper

1999 Purchase funded by William Plumley & the Albert and Helen Thalheimer Fund

Larry Rivers was a professional saxophonist in the early 1940s and studied at the Julliard School of Music. He began painting in 1945 and studied at the Hans Hofmann School. Rivers focused on figurative subjects. His painterly technique, associated with Abstract Expressionism, transferred to his drawings. In this rare self portrait, his decisive use of line captures the subject - himself - in an informal pose that conveys aspects of his personality.

Rivers produced realist figurative work at a time when abstract art was popular. "Most of the artists . . . were abstract artists. I was the only one who was painting realistically, and I felt very self-conscious about it." He portrayed his subjects in a manner that fused aspects of abstraction with realism. With an improvisational working style rooted in his experience as a professional jazz musician, Rivers fused figuration and abstraction to capture people, events and relationships that were important to him. Working quickly, Rivers often produced several sketches of family members and friends who posed for him. He drew "Self Portrait in Tank Top" in his trademark expressive style. Rivers had the ability to capture the essence of his subject while omitting details that he felt were irrelevant to the overall composition.