As the child of immigrants, living in Chicago in the Thirties, I grew up with kids like myself, kids with strong connections to the cultural traditions of Europe.
That naturally made my ambition to be a painter perfectly acceptable. At the Chicago Institute of Art, about half the students were like me as well, and all but one of my teachers was European.
So, how to find my American roots. Those I discovered in the late Victorian painters and the realists of the early 20th century.
When I first saw the work of William Merritt Chase, I saw the painter I aspired to be – not only successful, but technically brilliant. It’s surprising in fact that such a good painter was also a great commercial success.
The same goes for John Singer Sargent – his work still astounds me.
And Edward Hopper, completely different from the Victorians, but so quintessentially American in his grasp of urban life.
What exactly does that mean? Many things, no doubt, but certainly among them is our isolation in a vast geographic space. Which is a metaphor for our isolation both historically and personally.