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Mark Strand born 1934
The painter Philip Pearlstein, best known for large paintings of nudes, has created a number of portraits. This watercolor of Mark Strand was made as a gift in 1983 when both men were collaborating on a book about contemporary figurative painters. Strand, a nationally acclaimed poet and former poet laureate, originally planned to be an artist. Pearlstein attracted Strand's attention as one of a group of figurative painters who, in the wake of abstract expressionism, suggested through their work "that our relationship to the physical world, a relationship that is perpetually in danger of being destroyed by inattention, can be salvaged."

A leading American figurative painter over the last forty years, Pearlstein focuses not on personality but on the formal elements of making art: pattern, composition, color, light, and highly finished detail. The watercolor of Strand, similar to the nudes in its size, close cropping, and emotional detachment, exemplifies what one critic called Pearlstein's "anesthetizing psychic withdrawal" from his subjects.

Philip Pearlstein (born 1924)
Watercolor on paper, 1983
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mark and Julia Strand
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