Charcoal Self-Portrait in a Cement Garden, 1964
Signed and dated on back of canvas in yellow felt tip marker: Jim Dine / 1964 1
Charcoal and oil on canvas with five cement objects
108 x 48 x 27 in. (274.3 x 121.9 x 68.5 cm), installed dimensions
Ruth C. Roush Fund for Contemporary Art, 1965
With its deep, decisive lines, candid pentimenti, and large-scale rendering of volume on canvas, Jim Dine's Charcoal Self-Portrait in a Cement Garden is at once a drawing and a painting. Sculpture appears not only in the five cement garden ornaments, but also in their fictive work as "pedestals" for the rigid, vertical belt-tie, and for the rhyming vertical on the right. The Oberlin Self-Portrait is an image of great figural potency, despite (or because of) the absence of the artist's body.
The Oberlin work is an early example of Dine's use of the bathrobe (always empty, volumetric, with hands on hips) as a "friendly signifier" of common, vernacular use and personal possession. 2 Dine began working on the bathrobe works in the summer of 1964 in Easthampton, Long Island. Most of these works are titled "self-portrait," all are larger than life-size, and many include collage or three-dimensional elements. 3 Discussing one of the earliest of the bathrobes, Red Robe with Hatchet (Self-Portrait) (Sydney and Francis Lewis Collection), Dine stated, "I probably visualized the axe, the log, and the bathrobe as an extension of myself--a self portrait." 4 The bathrobe works were first exhibited in the fall of 1964 at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
As the bathrobe is the most ubiquitous of Dine's constantly reappearing "personal" icons, it is worth noting that Dine did not own a bathrobe. The idea for the bathrobe works was inspired by an advertisement in The New York Times Magazine Section. In 1964, Dine stated that he "was going to use it arbitrarily but suddenly it looked as though it had me in it." 5 Of Oberlin's Charcoal Portrait in a Cement Garden, Dine writes that the broken cement objects--which the artist had purchased at the local garden supply store--refer to the canonic forms and ambitious intentions of the art of the past: "I have always been attracted to so-called vanitas objects because they relate to the Academy and to Chardin. I always seem to make references through paint or objects to an older art. It's a link to my past." 6
It was not until 1979 that that Dine worked from a real bathrobe--or more precisely, a photograph of himself in a bathrobe (headless and with hands on hips, of course). 7
Dine's early bathrobe works, such as the Oberlin canvas, share many features with the works of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein--who at this same time were also bringing banal, everyday images or actual objects into the work of art. Charcoal Self-Portrait also belongs to the cluster of artistic rejections of the Abstract Expressionist cult of the heroic, expressive self. The deliberate rigidity of the drawing (including the strangely schematic pentimenti) represents an ironic response to the AbEx deification of the artist's gesture (represented in this catalogue by De Kooning's Two Women). These strategies continued to develop throughout the 1960s in Conceptural Art and Minimalist art.
Jim Dine studied art at the Cincinnati Arts Academy (1951-53), and later at the Boston Museum School and at Ohio University. He moved to New York in 1958, where his first involvement with the art world occurred during the Happenings staged by Allan Kaprow (b. 1927)in 1959-60. During the same period, Dine also created assemblages of found materials, and developed his distinctive formal approach to the depiction and interpretation of common images and objects in paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture. Clothing and domestic objects (a tie, a bathrobe, a toothbrush), the painter's tools, and other household implements were elevated to almost iconic stature. Dine repeated selected themes over and over, often in a variety of media; through repetition the motif became detached from its normal public context and identified with the artist and his personal iconography. The central themes of Dine's art have remained fairly consistent, but technical experimentation and changes in expressive intent have resulted in dramatic stylistic transformations throughout his career.
M. E. Wieseman
Gordon, John. Jim Dine. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1970.
Beal, Graham William John, et al. Jim Dine: Five Themes. Exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1984.
With Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, from whom purchased in 1965
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, 1964. Jim Dine. 27 October - 21 November. Cat. no. 22.
Akron Art Institute, 1968-69. Ohio Painters, a Brief History. 28 November - 14 January. No cat.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1970. Jim Dine. 27 February - 19 April. Cat. no. 61.
Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 1980. From Reinhardt to Christo: Works Acquired through the Benefaction of the Late Ruth C. Roush. 20 February - 19 March. Cat. no. 5.
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, 1984. Jim Dine: Five Themes. 12 February - 8 April (also shown at Phoenix Art Museum; The Saint Louis Art Museum; Akron Art Museum; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution). Unnumbered cat.
Jim Dine. Exh. cat., Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, 1964. Cat. no. 22.
Alloway, Lawrence. "Apropos of Jim Dine (part one)." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 23, no. 1 (Fall 1965), pp. 21-27.
Alloway, Lawrence. "Apropos of Jim Dine (part two)." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 23, no. 3 (Spring 1966), p. 134.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of European and American Paintings and Sculpture in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1967, p. 247, fig. 209.
Johnson, Ellen H. "Modern Americans at Oberlin." The Burlington Magazine 110, no. 783 (June 1968), pp. 354-57.
James, Bruce. "Line through Jim Dine." Master's thesis, Oberlin College, 1969, pp. 103ff.
Gordon, John. In Jim Dine. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1970, cat. no. 61.
Johnson, Ellen H. "American Art of the Twentieth Century." Apollo 103, no. 168 (February 1976), p. 50, fig. 3.
Mellow, James R. Jim Dine. Exh. cat., Pace Gallery, New York, 1979. Not paginated.
Beal, Graham William John. In Jim Dine: Five Themes. Exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1984, pp. 74-75.
Johnson, Ellen H. Fragments Recalled at Eighty: The Art Memoirs of Ellen H. Johnson. Edited by Athena Tacha. North Vancouver, 1993, pp. 81-83.
The canvas was preprimed with a thinly rolled white ground. The design was drawn in charcoal with light smudging and deliberate removal of medium. Thin layers of oil paint were then applied to certain areas, adding gloss to the surface. Where thickest, the glossy wash has a distinct yellow appearance.
The five cement objects include the two halves of a broken column, and a column with a broken edge. The cement is mixed with smooth pebbles that range in color from white to grey to red-brown.
The work is in good condition. There is no grime apparent on the exposed ground of the canvas; the stains and smudges in the image area occurred in the artist's studio. There are old losses along the edges, exposing bare canvas, and stains and light smudges approximately one-half inch inward from the tacking margin. The medium appears stable and integral throughout.
1. Also inscribed in red-black ink on stretcher: SELF PORTRAIT IN A CEMENT GARDEN / 1964.
2. Constance Glenn, Jim Dine, Drawings (New York, 1985), p. 13.
3. See, for example, Self-Portrait Next to a Colored Window (charcoal on canvas, oil on glass and wood, 182.6 x 20.3 x 252.7 cm, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts); Palette (Self-Portrait No. 1) (oil and collage on canvas, 214.6 x 152.4 cm, Newport Beach, Calif., Newport Harbor Art Museum); Seventeen-Colored Self-Portrait (oil on canvas and collage, 175.3 x 94 cm, estate of Myron Orlofsky); Double Red Self-Portrait (The Green Lines) (oil on canvas and collage, 213.4 x 304.8 cm, Chicago, private collection); Double Isometric Self-Portrait (Serape) (oil with objects on canvas, 144.5 x 214.6 cm, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art); and Red Robe #2 (oil and collage on canvas, 213.4 x 152.4 cm, New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery). All are dated 1964 and reproduced in David Shapiro, Jim Dine: Painting What One Is (New York, 1981), nos. 92, 93, 95, 96, 97, and 98, respectively.
4. Quoted in Graham W. J. Beal et al. Jim Dine: Five Themes (exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1984), p. 72.
5. "Discredited Merchandise," Newsweek (9 November 1964), p. 96. Cited in Bruce James, Line Through Jim Dine (master's thesis, Oberlin College, 1969), p. 102. The advertisement is reproduced as pl. XXVIA.
6. Quoted in Graham W.J. Beal et.al., Jim Dine: Five Themes (exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1984), p. 74.
7. Graham W.J. Beal et. al., Jim Dine: Five Themes (exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1984), p. 72. A reproduction of the photograph, taken by Dine's wife in Jerusalem, appears on the cover of the exhibition catalogue Jim Dine, Pace Gallery, New York (1979).