Bio

Philip Pearlstein was born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1924. In 1941, his junior year in high school, he received his first recognition when awarded first and third prizes in Scholastic Magazine’s 14th National High School Art Exhibition. Upon graduation from high school in 1942, he enrolled in the Carnegie Institute of Technology but the draft limited his attendance to one year. After discharge from the army in 1946, he returned to Carnegie Tech where he received his BFA in 1949. Upon graduation, he moved to New York City where he pursued work in graphic design and received a Master’s degree in art history from New York University in 1955.

Pearlstein worked as a graphic designer for Life Magazine before becoming an instructor at the Pratt Institute, and then a professor at Brooklyn College; he has also served as a visiting artist at several prestigious institutions throughout the country. His work has been exhibited in several solo exhibitions throughout the United States with paintings in the collections of over 70 public art museums. Pearlstein served as a President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters from 2003-2006 and currently lives and works in New York.

“It is what is painted between the outlines that makes the difference between merely competent painting and really meaningful art.”

—Philip Pearlstein

1920s

1924

May 24:  Born to David and Libby Kalser Pearlstein in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1940s

1941

May-June: Wins first prize with Merry-Go-Round and third prize with Wylie Avenue Barber Shop in Scholastic Magazine’s 14th National High School Art Exhibition. Reginald Marsh serves as juror for the exhibition.

June: Merry-Go-Round and Wylie Avenue Barber Shop reproduced in Life magazine, June 16, 1941.

1942

May-June: Wins first prize with Family Picnic in Scholastic Magazine’s 15th National High School Art Exhibition.

June: Graduates from Taylor Allderice High School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Fall: Enrolls in Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

1943

May: Drafted. After basic Infantry training in Camp McClellan, Alabama, he serves six months in Training Aids Unit in Camp Blanding, Florida where he picks up skills in layout, drafting, lettering and printing.

1944

October: Serves in infantry near Naples Italy.

1945

Stationed near Rome and Florence. Post war army stationed near Pisa, becomes skilled sign painter to fill army’s needs.

1946

May: Discharged from army. Returns to the United States and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Spring: Becomes assistant to Robert Lepper, head of the Design Program at Carnegie Institute of Technology, at the firm of Altenhof and Bown, Architects. Designs catalogs for building products through spring, 1949.

Fall: Enrolls as sophomore at Carnegie Institute of Technology. Studies with Robert Lepper, Balcomb Green, and Samuel Rosenberg. Meets Dorothy Cantor, George Klauber, and Andy Warhol (Warhola), fellow students at Carnegie Institute of Technology. Serves as art editor of the Carnegie Technical, the student publication of the Engineering School, through 1949.

1949

June: Graduates from Carnegie Institute of Technology with B.F.A. Summer: Moves to New York City and lives on St. Mark’s Place with Andy Warhol. Later the move to West 21st Street.

Fall: Works with graphic designer Ladislav Sutnar in design and production of catalogs of plumbing fixtures and ventilators. Continues with Sutnar for eight years.

1950s

1950

March: Moves to own apartment on East 25th Street.

August 20: Marries Dorothy Cantor and moves to 80th Street and 2nd Avenue.

Fall: Begins graduate work at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Studies with Karl Lehmann, Craig Smith and Jose Lopez-Rey.

Introduced to The Club, and attends until it disbands in the early sixties.

1952

May-June: Moves to 24 East 4th Street.

Summer: Travels through the western United States. Visits the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, begins paintings of rocks.

December: Painting included in a group at the Tanager Gallery, an early cooperative gallery in New York City.

1954

January: Clement Greenberg selects Pearlstein to be in “Emerging Talent” show at Kootz Gallery, New York. Torso is shown. Show includes Herman Cherry, Paul Freeley, Paul Georges, Cornelia Langer, Saul Leiter, Morris Louis, Anthony Louvis, Sue Mitchell, Kenneth Noland, and Theophil Groell (Repke).

Fall: Moves to Avenue A between 11th and 12th Streets. Joins Tanager Gallery

1955

January-February: First one man exhibit at Tanager Gallery.

June: Receives M.A. in Art History from Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Thesis on Francis Picabia with Jose Lopez-Rey and H.W. Janson as advisors.

Summer: Spent at Montauk, Long Island

1956

January: Publishes “The Symbolic Language of Francis Picabia”, in Arts Magazine.

February-March: First one man exhibition at Peridot Gallery, New York.

Summer: Spent on Deer Isle, Maine, and Mercedes Matter’s suggestion and draws boulders and uprooted trees to serve as the basis for later paintings.

1957

March: Participates with Sidney Gordon, William Kienbush, Pat Passloff and Ludwig Sander in panel discussion, “The Artist’s Involvement with Nature,” at The Club, New York.

Summer: Begins work doing layout for Life.

October 25: Son, William, is born.

1958

Winter: Joins drawing group meeting in Robert Ludwig’s studio. Group also includes Charles Cajori and Mercedes Matter.

Fall: Takes leave of absence from Life.

September: Receives Fulbright Grant for Painting in Italy. Travels to Rome, Florence, Venice, Amalfi Coast and Sicily as well as Switzerland, France and The Netherlands. Paints Landscapes.

1959

August: Returns from Italy

Fall: Rejoins drawing group including at various times during the following thirteen years: Ann Arnold, Rudolph Burkhardt, Charles Cajori, Gretna Campbell, Lois Dodd, Louis Finkelstein, Joe Fiore, Sideo and Nora Fromboluti, Mary Frank, Stephen Greene, Theophil Groell (Repke), Philip Guston, Yvonne Jacquette, Diana Kurtz, Alex Katz, Gabriel Laberman, Mercedes Matter, George McNeil, Sidney Tillim, Jack Tworkov and William White. Meets initially in Mercedes Matter’s studio. Continues to meet with group at various locations, including his own studio through 1972.

September: Becomes Instructor at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. Continues at Pratt through May, 1963.

1960s

1960

September: One man exhibition of paintings and drawings at Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, Illinois.

Shares studio, first with Lois Dodd, then with Lester Johnson.

1961

April 2. Daughter, Julia, is born.

April: One man exhibition, Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York.

Summer: Publishes “Futurism and Some Other Corrupt Forms” in Art News .
Moves to West 89th Street between West End and Riverside Drive.

1962

Visiting Critic, Yale University, New Haven, CT

January: Participates with Leland Bell, Charles Cajori, Paul Georges and Loius Finkelstein in panel discussion, “Painting the Figure,” at The Club, New York.

January-February: Exhibits first figure painting, Models in the Studio (1962), at 10th and Final Year Group Show at Tanager Gallery.

Begins painting directly from the model with Reclining Nude. 

June: First show of figurative work-brush drawings at Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York.  Works purchased by Raphael Soyer, John Koch, and Hilton Kramer.

Summer: Publishes “Figure Paintings Today Are Not Made in Heaven” in Art News. 

1963

March: First show of figure paintings at Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York.

March 31: Daughter, Ellen, is born.

September: Joins faculty at Brooklyn College, New York, as assistant professor.

1964

Publishes “Whose Painting Is It Anyway?” in Arts Yearbook 7.

1965

Spring: Moves to West 88th Street.

August: Becomes Visiting Artist and lecturer at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine.

1967

February: Publishes “The Romantic Self Image is Gone” in Barbara Rose and Irving Sandler, “Senseibility of the Sixties,” Art in America.

Begins attending Friday night discussion group organized by Alliance of Figurative Artists. Attends through 1976.

June-August: Visits Skowhegan School of Painting and Scultpture, Maine as Guest Artist and Lecturer.

1968

January: Becomes Associate Professor, Brooklyn College, New York.

Recieves National Endowment for the Arts grant.

1969

June-August: Becomes resident faculty member, Boston University summer art program, Tanglewood, Massachusetts.

Receives John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation grant.

1970s

1970

Winter: Briefly travels to Rome and Athens.

September: Retrospective organized by Georgia Museum of Art, Athens Georgia, opens. Travels through 1971 to the Wichita Art Museum and Vassar College.

September: Publishes “Hello and Goodbye, Francis Picabia,” in Art News.

1971

Summer: Travels in Mexico

August: Publishes “Why I Paint the Way I Do” in The New York Times, August 8.

1972

Becomes full Professor, Brooklyn College, New York.

June: Exhibition of drawings, prints, and watercolors opens at Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. Exhibition travels to Kunstverein in Hamburg.

Summer: Travels to Germany, France, and Italy.

1973

Receives American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters award.

Summer: Travels to Italy and paints on Amalfi coast.

1974

Summer: Travels to the southwestern United States to prepare work for the Department of the Interior Bicentennial Exhibition.

Retrospective of prints and drawings opens at Finch College and travels through 1975 to the University of Texas at Austin, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan; Notre Dame University, Indiana; Grand Rapids Art Museum,

Michigan; Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Michigan; Tampa Nay Art Center, Florida; Miami Art Center, Florida.

1975

Summer: Returns to southwest and finishes Canyon de Chelly painting.

1976

Summer: Returns to Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.

1977

Made Distinguished Professor, Brooklyn College, New York.

1978

February: Leads College Art Association panel on “The Conceptualization of Realism,” New York. Panelists include Rackstraw Downes, Ben Schonzeit, Sylvia Plimpton Mangold, Chuck Close, and George Segal.

Exhibition of complete lithographs and etchings opens at Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Missouri. Travels extensively.

Winter: Travels to Peru and completes two watercolors.

Fall: Travels to southwest. Serves as Visiting Artist at Navajo Community College, Tselei, Arizona.

1979

Winter: Travels to Egypt and completes three watercolors.

1980s

1982

Spring: Serves as Artist in Residence, American Academy of Art, Rome.

1988

Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY

2000s

2003-06

President, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY

Awards & Honors

1956-59

Fulbright Hayes Fellow in Italy

1968

National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship

1969

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship

1982

Artist in Residence, American Academy in Rome

1983

Honorary Doctorate Degree, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

1986

Distinguished Achievement Award, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

1996

National Academy of Design Award, New York, NY

Invited Guest to Honorary Dinner at the White House celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fulbright Fellowship

Honorary Doctorate Degree, Brooklyn College, NY

1998

National Council of Arts Administrators Visual Artist Award

2000

Honorary Doctorate Degree, Center for Creative Studies and the College of Art & Design, Detroit, MI

Distinguished Alumni Award, New York University, New York, NY

2001

Honorary Doctorate Degree, New York Academy of Arts, New York, NY

2004

The Benjamin West Clinedinst Memorial Medal, The Artists Fellowship, Inc., New York, NY

2005

The Adolph & Clara Obrig Prize, National Academy, New York, NY

2008

Scholastic Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, New York, NY

Lifetime Achievement Award, National Academy, New York, NY

Honorary Doctorate Degree, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, Old Lyme, CT

2010

Artist of the Year, American Friends of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, New York, NY

Videos

Painter / Painted: Philip Pearlstein & Desirée Alvarez
Part of the New York Studio School’s Spring 2012 Lecture Series.
Recorded on February 22, 2012 | 01:44:37
Internationally recognized artist Philip Pearlstein in conversation with his model of 12 years, Desirée Alvarez, award winning poet, sculptor and painter. The dialogue explores the nature of Pearlstein’s work process and his intimate relationship to perception. Ms. Alvarez is the recipient of three Fellowship Awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the European Capital of Culture Award, and the American Academy Willard L. Metcalf Award.

WEDU Video 109: Painter Philip Pearlstein
Premiere Date: May 02, 2013 | 06:28
Celebrated painter Philip Pearlstein discusses his 75-year career during an exhibit at The Museum of Art in St. Pete.

State of the Arts: Philip Pearlstein, realist painter
Documentary produced by NJTV
Aired: 01/29/2012 | 10:20
Philip Pearlstein began painting nudes in the early 1960s when it was a radical move, and he ushered in a new chapter in American Realism. Meet the artist at his Highland Lakes weekend home and in his NYC studio, plus visit a retrospective of his work including his high school paintings, nudes, landscapes and cityscapes, and portraits made of his friends and neighbors.


Just the facts: Contemporary Perceptual Realist Painting

A lecture with Philip Pearlstein
Recorded on June 28 2014
Influential American painter, Philip Pearlstein shares his adventures, mishaps, and the many fascinating anecdotes that highlight his more than 60 year career, from his early abstract expressionist landscape paintings to his paintings of static nudes with bewildering perfection. An American master and realist painter, Pearlstein is renown for the steady strength of his work such that many critics say he is doing the best painting of his life today. Since the 1960s, Pearlstein’s paintings of nudes in a room, have engaged viewers as nothing simple or conventional. As critic Robert Hughes comments when speaking of Pearlstein, “Realism, we learn once more, is neither a simple nor an easy matter.” When Pearlstein first began with the figure, he “just wanted to map what was there…to use the model to map composition.” Pearlstein’s mature paintings reveal increasing complexity. The nudes are just enough bigger, the angles and framing subtly intentional to convey something highly charged, a feeling of power. Pearlstein’s work is in over seventy museums collections in the United States, including the National Gallery in Washington, Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of art, the MOMA and the Whitney, among others.