high school, Paul was enrolled with the Worcester
Art Museum School. There he remained for three years and gained a thorough academic
background in painting classical art, using many techniques and mediums.
Sargent and Pinkham-Ryder
Watercolor became a favored medium . He was influenced by the handsome
selection of John
Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer
watercolors hanging in the Worcester Museum. His analytical mind was most
excited by the technical ability these artists had in achieving transparencies. Fontaine
particularly enjoyed Sergent's ability to visually transpose elements from
nature, but he used more plastic constructions than Sergent. In addition, Fontaine
particularly studied Albert Pinkham Ryder's ability to reduce natural shapes to their
abstract essence. This style is also reminiscent of Thomas Hart
Benton who, along with Steward Curry, portrayed the American scene outside the New York
School of Social Realism. The effect of promoting American indigenous art was a sincere
effort to establish themselves in face of competition from international modernism.
Then a national cultural consciousness was fostered by governmental support of
the arts. Paul Fontaine signed an artist's contract with the Civilian Conservation Corps.
As a condition of employment he was required to paint scenes of camp life in
"pictorial representational manner."
influence was Mr. Michie's lecture on oriental art. He stressed the importance of Notan in
a composition. Notan is the design or pattern of a work of art as seen in flat areas of
dark and light values only. This had a lasting influence and can be seen in all Fontaine's
works today. Books on Notan. Mr. Humann, Fontaine's art
teacher at the Museum School, treated all his students as though they were budding
Rembrandts. The weekly compositions were seriously criticized for originality and
development of personal style not too influenced by current fashion.
The painting titled, "Lynchings," done in 1932, is just one of the
social realist subjects he and his fellow students were required to illustrate, but in
truth knew very little about. Paul had never been to the South, but "Lynchings"
received much publicity in the North. Their ideas came from newspapers and
newsreels, but not from personal experience, nor political convictions.
Paul was twenty years old and employed the dramatic realistic style, distorted
perspective and mannerisms of his teacher. His next job was with the Works Progress
Administration when he gained experience as a muralist depicting the history of
Springfield, Massachusetts, full of Indians and early settlers in the Springfield Post
Office. (Springfield Post Office Murals
Thus the arts were 'popularized' because they served the function of educating
and communicating to the public. Fontaine and the other artists benefitted by gaining
employment during the economic crisis of the depression as well as gaining a professional