The Easel

Easel Essay Nicole Eisenman and the Resurrection of Figuration

Grants awarded by the MacArthur Foundation are popularly called “genius grants”. When one was given last year to a figurative painter it was much more than a nice career development for the artist concerned. Easel Contributing Editor Morgan Meis argues that it signaled a broader shift in thinking about this form of painting which, for large parts of the last century, has been out of vogue.

“The beauty of a painting, as opposed to a photograph, is that you can put anything onto the canvas as long as helps fill out the narrative. The great painters of old discovered this fact long ago, artists like Peter Paul Rubens, with his giant canvases packed full of human bodies in complicated, many-layered levels of interaction. These lessons were set aside when painting, traumatized by photography, engaged in a non-representational journey of self-discovery that lasted for much of the last century. Today, the paintings of Nicole Eisenman serve notice; figurative painting with a narrative thrust is back in earnest.”