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Worcester Influences

Following 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.

Homer, 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 essenceThis 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." 

Notan

Further 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.

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Lynchings, 1932

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 respectability.

 

This site was last updated on 07/22/00
The Paul Fontaine Archive
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