In Memoriam: Sidney Goodman (1936-2013)


Sidney Goodman- A Celebrated Life
Sunday, May 5, 2013, 5-7pm

RSVP Here Free and open to the public

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Historic Landmark Building
118 N. Broad St

On April 11, 2013 the Philadelphia arts community lost one of its best known and most accomplished painters, Sidney Goodman.  Sidney Goodman is considered one of America’s most important figurative artists, known for his paintings and drawings based on the human figure and exploring the complexities of the human condition.

“Sidney Goodman made psychologically difficult content graceful and elegant. He had a visual empathy that translated into work that spoke forcefully about what it is like to be in the body, emotionally, physically, through its transcendent joys, desperate despair, and explosive anger. His work captures all of the contradictions of what it is to be human, articulated in such a way that humanity has dignity no matter what its condition,” says Robert Cozzolino, PAFA’s senior curator and curator of modern art.

A Philadelphia native, Goodman attended the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts) from 1954-1958. In 1961, he received immediate critical attention at his New York debut exhibition and was awarded the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Neysa McMein Purchase Award. Goodman won numerous prizes and honorary degrees over the course of his career, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1962, the Hazlette Memorial Award for Excellence in the Arts (Painting) in 1986, and an honorary doctorate from Lyme Academy College of Art in 2006. His work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions and appears in major collections including PAFA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  the Princeton University Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Yale University Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and many others.

Goodman viewed his work as embracing two major concepts. He said, “One is about shades of ambiguity and clarity. The other is about richness of light and color. The physical and spiritual realms of human experience merge through the forms of light and darkness. The sense of continuity from youth to old age is reflected by a preoccupation with global events. A concurrent theme is the everyday, the routine, the beauty of the commonplace.

Goodman retired from PAFA in 2011, where he had taught since 1978.  Of his teaching, Goodman commented, “Teaching, for me, is a rewarding experience. At PAFA, there is an atmosphere where I can practice what I preach. It is a place where students can find their own way of thinking and seeing. PAFA has a strong history as well as a strong present and future. It is a place where past and present meet to create a unique experience.”

In 2009, PAFA organized Sidney Goodman: The Man in the Mirror, a survey of the artist’s drawings since 1980 and published the accompanying catalog. That exhibition, the first to focus intensely on Goodman’s command as a draughtsman, highlighted an extraordinary dimension to an artist primarily known as a painter. Goodman’s drawings revealed themselves to be as powerful and suggestive as his paintings but also technically full of risks and unexpected approaches to composition. In 1995 the Philadelphia Museum of Art organized a retrospective of Goodman’s paintings and drawings. In the catalogue that accompanied that exhibition, John Ravenal wrote,

During the 1960s and 1970s, Goodman's steady commitment to representing the figure was hailed as an important alternative to abstract painting. The depth of his grounding in the history of art, from Egyptian and classical sculpture to old master painting, is often richly apparent just beneath the surface of Goodman's familiar subjects, and makes his work equally of this moment and profoundly informed by the past. This foundation has given his work a gravity and sense of purpose that are both a virtue and a liability in an age that so highly values novelty and in which so many artists relate their works to historical sources only by parody...

Goodman was an influential, vital presence in Philadelphia and at PAFA. His personality and approach to teaching had a profound effect on our community. He will live on through that indelible, ongoing presence.