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Paul Georges was born in 1923 in Portland, OR to a Greek father and Jewish mother, and emerging to prominence in the mid-1950s as one of the New York School artists, Paul Georges, who studied with Fernand Léger and Hans Hofmann, sought to bring the energy of Abstract Expressionism to representational painting. He fearlessly explored a number of genres including narrative painting, self-portraiture, still life, landscape, and political allegory, and achieved a highly distinctive style.

In the 1960s, Georges’ practice evolved from an engagement with the Cézannesque figure composition when he felt compelled to respond to the social and political turmoil of America. After painting his first overtly political study of JFK’s Dallas motorcade, Georges adopted the large format of history painting to cast light on social, political, and artistic issues. He was heavily criticised by politically conservative critics, and even had a brush with the libel laws in the early 70s, winning his case on appeal. His work also met controversy in its stylistic excess and brash sensuality. As one of the leading American figurative painters, he was always out of sync with the artistic fashions of his day but his unique, humanistic approach to painting now looks highly relevant. The political content of Georges’ paintings is inseparable from his relationship to art history for they are steeped in the precedents of his medium, frequently taking inspiration from compositions and motifs of Breughel, Goya, Courbet, Manet, and Ensor, executed in an unmistakable bravura style. And yet, his work never falls into historical pastiche—it is always emphatically of its own moment.

Throughout his working life, Paul Georges explored figure painting, still life, landscape, self-portraiture, and group portraits with references to mythology, art history, and contemporary politics. He spent his career traveling between downtown New York and a farmhouse in Normandy, France, and he was known to have shuttled his works-in-progress between the two locations. A decorated World War II veteran, Georges studied, postwar, with Hans Hofmann in the United States. He also studied in Paris at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the Atelier Fernand Léger.

Georges’ paintings combine painterly French Modernism, Rococo exuberance, and New York street attitude. In the 1960s, he felt compelled to respond to the decade’s social and political turmoil, often in the form of large-scale history paintings. His first overtly political work was a modest study of JFK’s 1963 Dallas motorcade, and he continued to paint responses to contemporary trends and events, including the AIDS epidemic, as well as denunciations of religious extremism and urban homelessness.

Among his many awards are the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1966 Neysa McMein Purchase Award, the National Academy Museum’s 1983 Andrew Carnegie Prize for the 158th Annual Exhibition, and the National Academy Museum’s 1991 Gladys Emerson Cook Prize for the 166th Annual Exhibition. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.

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