Philip Pearlstein

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Philip Pearlstein
Philip Martin Pearlstein

(1924-05-24)May 24, 1924
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedDecember 17, 2022(2022-12-17) (aged 98)
New York City, U.S.
Notable workNudes
Awards Edit this at Wikidata

Philip Martin Pearlstein (May 24, 1924 – December 17, 2022) was an American painter best known for Modernist Realist 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]


Pearlstein was born on May 24, 1924, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to David and Libby Kalser Pearlstein.[8][9][10] During the Great Depression, his parents sold chickens and eggs to support the family.[11] As a child his parents supported his interest in art, sending him to Saturday morning classes at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art.[11] In 1942, at the age of 18, two of his paintings won a national competition sponsored by Scholastic Magazine,[12] and were reproduced in color in Life magazine.[13][14] He graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in 1942.[15][16][17]

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 U.S. Army to serve during World War II.[18][19] 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.[20] 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.[12][21][14]

In 1946, sponsored by the GI Bill,[21] he returned to Carnegie Institute where one of his fellow students was the artist's 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.[22][23] During the summer of 1947, the three rented a barn as a summer studio.[24] 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.[25][26] He was eventually hired by Czech designer Ladislav Sutnar, mainly doing industrial catalog work, while Warhol immediately found work illustrating department store catalogs.[21] 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.[27] During this time, Pearlstein painted a portrait of Warhol, now held by the Whitney Museum of American Art.[28]

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.[29] 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[30][31]


During the 1950s Pearlstein exhibited abstract expressionist landscape paintings.[32] Around 1958 he began to attend weekly figure drawing sessions at the studio of Mercedes Matter.[32] 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".[32] In 1971, Pearlstein was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship[33] for Fine Arts.


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

His personal papers are held in the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art.[42]


Pearlstein received numerous awards including 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,[43] Center for Creative Studies; the College of Art & Design, Detroit, MI; and the New York Academy of Arts, New York, NY.[44]

Pearlstein was a former president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1988 he was elected into the National Academy of Design.[45] He was represented by the Betty Cuningham Gallery.

Personal life and death

The Pearlsteins had three children,[26] of which two daughters were the subjects of several paintings he made in the 1960s, including one that was featured in New York magazine in 1968.[46] The couple lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City, New York.[47] Dorothy Cantor Pearlstein died in 2018 at the age of 90.[10][48]

Pearlstein died at a hospital in Manhattan on December 17, 2022, at the age of 98.[10][11]



  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". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Pratt Institute, Pratt Top Icon Biography – Philip Pearlstein". Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  8. ^ Pearlstein, Philip (July 13, 1970). "Philip Pearlstein". Georgia Museum of Art – via Google Books.
  9. ^ "Philip Pearlstein". Encyclopædia Britannica. May 20, 2024.
  10. ^ a b c Grimes, William (December 19, 2022). "Philip Pearlstein, Whose Realist Nudes Revived Portraiture, Dies at 98". The New York Times. Vol. 172, no. 59642. pp. B6. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  11. ^ a b c Grundberg, Andy (December 24, 2022). "Philip Pearlstein, painter who mastered the nude, dies at 98". The Washington Post. Vol. 136, no. 53344. pp. B4. ISSN 0190-8286.
  12. ^ 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 April 10, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  13. ^ "Youngest generation of American artists holds whopping good show at Pittsburgh". Life. June 16, 1941. pp. 56–59. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
  14. ^ a b "Philip Pearlstein Draws Upon Life as a Young Soldier". The Villager. September 16, 2016. Archived from the original (Archived by the Wayback Machine) on July 13, 2019.
  15. ^ "Philip Pearlstein Paintings, Bio, Ideas". The Art Story. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  16. ^ "Philip Pearlstein: World War II Drawings". Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  17. ^ The Allderdice. Seniors: Philip M. Pearlstein: Taylor Allderdice High School. 1942. p. 60.
  18. ^ "Pearlstein, Philip".
  19. ^ "Artist Info".
  20. ^ a b "National Gallery of Art – Philip M. Pearlstein Biography". Archived from the original on December 13, 2012.
  21. ^ a b c d Bui, Phong (September 1, 2005). "Philip Pearlstein in Conversation with Phong Bui". The Brooklyn Rail.
  22. ^ Pearlstein, Philip (April 25, 2014). "In Philip Pearlstein's Autobiography, Warhol Is a Major Character".
  23. ^ Klein, Barbara. "Before They Were Famous". Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.
  24. ^ Foresta, Merry A. (May 19, 2015). Artists Unframed: Snapshots from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9781616894436 – via Google Books.
  25. ^ Rosenberg, Karen (April 25, 2008). "New York cool: A transitional generation is given its due". The New York Times.
  26. ^ a b Kimmelman, Michael (May 24, 2002). "IN THE STUDIO WITH; Real Flesh, Not Perfect Or Prurient". The New York Times.
  27. ^ "Andy Warhol Pre-Pop 2".
  28. ^ "Whitney Museum Artist Page – Philip Pearlstein". Archived from the original on October 21, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  29. ^ "Art review: 'Pearlstein, Warhol, Cantor,' an exhibition of Pittsburgh greats, is full of surprises". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  30. ^ "Michael Berger Gallery, Biography of Philip Pearlstein". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  31. ^ "School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts".
  32. ^ a b c Pearlstein 1970 (unpaginated)
  33. ^ "Philip Pearlstein - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation". Retrieved June 3, 2024.
  34. ^ "Girl in Striped Robe". The Art Institute of Chicago. 1972.
  35. ^ "Artist: Philip Pearlstein". Cleveland Museum of Art. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  36. ^ "The Corcoran Collects" (PDF). Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  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. ^ "Alex Katz 1965". Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  40. ^ "Philip Pearlstein". The Museum of Modern Art.
  41. ^ "Philip Pearlstein".
  42. ^ "A Finding Aid to the Philip Pearlstein papers, circa 1940–2008".
  43. ^ "Philip Pearlstein". Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  44. ^ "Philip Pearlstein". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  45. ^ "Philip Pearlstein – NA Database". National Academy of Design. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  46. ^ Constable, Rosalind (December 16, 1968). "Style of the Year: The Inhumanists". New York. New York Media, LLC. pp. 49, 50 – via Google Books.
  47. ^ "Realist Painter Philip Pearlstein Leaving Longtime UWS Townhouse for $3.4 M." The New York Observer. August 14, 2012.
  48. ^ "Dorothy Pearlstein Obituary". Retrieved December 21, 2022.

Additional references

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

External links