Philip Pearlstein

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Philip Pearlstein
Born (1924-05-24) May 24, 1924 (age 97)
EducationCarnegie Institute of Technology, New York University Institute of Fine Arts
Notable work
AwardsNational Academy Museum and School: Design, Obrig Prize & Lifetime Achievement Awards. Fulbright-Hays Scholarship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Rome Prize

Philip Pearlstein (born May 24, 1924) is an American painter best known for Modernist Realism nudes.[1] Cited by critics as the preeminent figure painter of the 1960s to 2000s,[2][3][4][5] he led a revival in realist art.[6][7] He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus with paintings in the collections of over 70 public art museums.


Pearlstein was born on May 24, 1924, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to David and Libby Kalser Pearlstein.[8][9] During the Great Depression his father sold chickens and eggs to support the family.[10] As a child his parents supported his interest in art, sending him to Saturday morning classes at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art. In 1942, at the age of 18, two of his paintings won a national competition sponsored by Scholastic Magazine,[11] and were reproduced in color in Life magazine.[12][13] He graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in 1942.[14][15][16]

In 1942, he enrolled at Carnegie Institute of Technology's art school, in Pittsburgh, where he painted two portraits of his parents now held by the Carnegie Museum of Art, but after one year he was drafted in 1943 by the US Army to serve during World War II.[17][18] He was initially assigned to the Training Aids Unit at Camp Blanding, Florida, where he produced charts, weapon assembly diagrams and signs. In this role, he learned printmaking and the screenprinting process, and subsequently was stationed in Italy making road signs.[19] While in Italy, he took in as much renaissance art as was accessible in Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan, and also produced over 100 drawings and watercolors depicting life in the Army.[11][20][13]

In 1946, sponsored by the GI Bill,[20] he returned to Carnegie Institute where one of fellow students was his future wife, Dorothy Cantor. Another fellow student was Andy Warhol, who was attracted to Pearlstein because of his notoriety in the school, his high school paintings having been featured in Life magazine.[21][22] During the summer of 1947, the three rented a barn as a summer studio.[23] Immediately after graduating in June 1949 with a BFA, Pearlstein and Warhol moved to New York City, at first sharing an eighth-floor walkup tenement apartment on St. Mark's Place at Avenue A.[24][25] He was eventually hired by Czech designer Ladislav Sutnar, mainly doing industrial catalog work, while Warhol immediately found work illustrating department store catalogs.[20] In April 1950, they moved to 323 W. 21st Street, into an apartment rented by Franziska Marie Boas, who ran a dance class on the other side of the room.[26] During this time, Pearlstein painted a portrait of Warhol, now held by the Whitney Museum of American Art.[27]

Male and Female Nudes with Red and Purple Drape, 1968, Hirshhorn Museum

In 1950, Philip Pearlstein married Dorothy Cantor, with Andy Warhol in the wedding party.[28] The Pearlsteins moved to East 4th Street, taking over an apartment from fellow figure painter Lester Johnson, and Philip enrolled in the Masters in Art History program at New York University Institute of Fine Arts. His thesis was on artist Francis Picabia, evaluating Cubism, Abstract art, Dada and Surrealism, graduating in 1955.[19]

After graduation, he was hired by Life Magazine to do page layouts, and was then awarded a Fulbright Hays fellowship, enabling him to return to Italy for a year, where he painted a series of landscapes.[20] From 1959 to 1963, he was an instructor at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York, and subsequently spent a year as a Visiting Critic at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Finally, from 1963 to 1988, he was Professor, and then Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn College, in Brooklyn, New York.[29][30]

The Pearlsteins have three adult children,[25] of which two daughters were the subjects of several painting he made in the 1960s,[31] and the couple lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City, New York.[32]


During the 1950s Pearlstein exhibited abstract expressionist landscape paintings.[33] Around 1958 he began to attend weekly figure drawing sessions at the studio of Mercedes Matter.[33] In 1961 Pearlstein began to make paintings of nude couples based upon his drawings, and in 1962 he began painting directly from the model in a less painterly and more realistic style. In an article published in Arts Magazine in April, 1963, Sidney Tillim wrote that "[Pearlstein] has not only regained the figure for painting; he has put it behind the plane and in deep space without recourse to nostalgia (history) or fashion (new images of man) ... He paints the nude not as a symbol of beauty and pure form but as a human fact—implicitly imperfect".[33]


Pearlstein's work is in over seventy museums collections in the United States, including:

The Milwaukee Art Museum honored him with a retrospective exhibition in 1983 and accompanied the exhibition with a monograph on his complete paintings. His personal papers are held in the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art.[42]


Since the mid-1950s Pearlstein has received several awards, most recently, the National Council of Arts Administrators Visual Artist Award; The Benjamin West Clinedinst Memorial Medal, The Artists Fellowship, Inc., New York, NY; and honorary doctorate degrees from Brooklyn College, NY, Center for Creative Studies and the College of Art & Design, Detroit, MI, and New York Academy of Arts, New York, NY. Pearlstein is a former president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1988 he was elected into the National Academy of Design.[43] He is represented by the Betty Cuningham Gallery.


  1. ^ Johnson, Ken (January 6, 2009). "The Human Body, Bare Facts and All, in a Retrospective at the Montclair Art Museum". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Arnason, H. Harvard; Mansfield, Elizabeth (August 3, 2009). History of modern art: painting, sculpture, architecture, photography. Prentice Hall. ISBN 9780205673674 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Neff, Terry Ann R. (December 1, 1984). Selections from the permanent collection. Museum of Contemporary Art. ISBN 9780933856165 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Soltes, Ori Z. (July 13, 2003). Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the Twentieth Century. UPNE. ISBN 9781584650492 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "News". Lehigh University.
  6. ^ Johnson, Ken. "THE WEEK AHEAD | OCT. 19 - OCT. 25 | Art".
  7. ^ "Pratt Institute, Pratt Top Icon Biography – Philip Pearlstein". Archived from the original on 2012-07-01. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
  8. ^ Pearlstein, Philip (July 13, 1970). "Philip Pearlstein". Georgia Museum of Art – via Google Books.
  9. ^ "Philip Pearlstein | American painter". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  10. ^ "Philip Pearlstein". The New York Times. July 26, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "American Artist Magazine, Mar. 7, 2008 – Beyond Drawing Basics: Philip Pearlstein's Unrelenting Gaze, by John A. Parks". Archived from the original on 2014-04-10. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
  12. ^ Life, June 16, 1941, pp. 56-57, “Youngest Generation of American Artists Holds Whopping Good Show at Pittsburgh.”
  13. ^ a b "Philip Pearlstein Draws Upon Life as a Young Soldier". The Villager. September 16, 2016.
  14. ^ "Philip Pearlstein Biography, Life & Quotes".
  15. ^ "Philip Pearlstein: World War II Drawings".
  16. ^ The Allderdice. Seniors: Philip M. Pearlstein: Taylor Allderdice High School. 1942. p. 60.
  17. ^ "Pearlstein, Philip".
  18. ^ "Artist Info".
  19. ^ a b "National Gallery of Art – Philip M. Pearlstein Biography". Archived from the original on 2012-12-13.
  20. ^ a b c d Bui, Phong (September 1, 2005). "Philip Pearlstein In Conversation with Phong Bui". The Brooklyn Rail.
  21. ^ Pearlstein, Philip (April 25, 2014). "In Philip Pearlstein's Autobiography, Warhol Is a Major Character".
  22. ^ "Carnegie Magazine | Summer 2015 | Before They Were Famous - By Barbara Klein".
  23. ^ Foresta, Merry A. (May 19, 2015). Artists Unframed: Snapshots from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9781616894436 – via Google Books.
  24. ^ Rosenberg, Karen (April 25, 2008). "New York cool: A transitional generation is given its due". The New York Times.
  25. ^ a b Kimmelman, Michael (May 24, 2002). "IN THE STUDIO WITH; Real Flesh, Not Perfect Or Prurient". The New York Times.
  26. ^ "Andy Warhol Pre-Pop 2".
  27. ^ "Whitney Museum Artist Page – Philip Pearlstein".
  28. ^ "Art review: 'Pearlstein, Warhol, Cantor,' an exhibition of Pittsburgh greats, is full of surprises". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  29. ^ "Michael Berger Gallery, Biography of Philip Pearlstein". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
  30. ^ "School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts".
  31. ^ LLC, New York Media (December 16, 1968). "New York Magazine". New York Media, LLC – via Google Books.
  32. ^ "Realist Painter Philip Pearlstein Leaving Longtime UWS Townhouse for $3.4 M." The New York Observer. August 14, 2012.
  33. ^ a b c Pearlstein 1970 (unpaginated)
  34. ^ "Girl in Striped Robe". The Art Institute of Chicago. 1972.
  35. ^ "Artist: Philip Pearlstein". Cleveland Museum of Art. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  36. ^[bare URL PDF]
  37. ^ "Search results". Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  38. ^ "Search by Artist: Philip Pearlstein". Kemper Museum of Contemporary Ar. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  39. ^[bare URL]
  40. ^ "Philip Pearlstein | MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art.
  41. ^ "Philip Pearlstein".
  42. ^ "A Finding Aid to the Philip Pearlstein papers, circa 1940–2008".
  43. ^ "Philip Pearlstein – NA Database". National Academy of Design. Retrieved April 20, 2021.


  • Pearlstein, P. (1970). Philip Pearlstein. Georgia: Georgia Museum of Art.

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