Thursday Art ATTACK- Peter Saul “Mr. Welfare” By Christian Franzen

Peter Saul “Mr. Welfare”

Peter Saul was born on August 16th, 1934 in the city of San Francisco, California. During his childhood Saul found a deep love for comic books and their illustrations. Seeing the illustrations in the comics of the 1940's inspired him to draw and eventually pursue a career in art. After high school Saul studied at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. After two years he left San Francisco and attended Washington University in St. Louis from 1952 until graduating in 1956.

Once school was finished he moved to Paris, France where he lived until 1964. In Paris Saul began to incorporate contemporary cartoon characters as well as characters from his youth into his work. In addition to his figurative distortion paired with crazy Day-Glo colors, Saul's paintings often held some sort of political voice which he would cultivate throughout his career. While living in Paris Saul came in contact with art dealer Allan Frumkin. Frumkin would go on to host Saul's first solo show at the Allan Frumkin Gallery in Chicago. This opening show drew a lot of attentions to Saul's work and as a result exhibited several solo shows the following year in Europe and New York City. Now in the attention of the art spotlight, Saul fell into association with the Pop Art movement of the time.

Following his successful shows Saul returned to the San Francisco in 1964. This ushered in a new period in his work. He began to paint extremely personal loose interpretations of the Vietnam War. At this time he also painted twisted portraits of politicians of the time and other celebrity figures in his high velocity colors, this is perhaps his most famous body of work in today’s world. During this period Saul exhibited in several group shows in and around the Bay Area with a group of his contemporaries. In the early 1970's Saul began interpreting historic paintings such as The Night Watch by Rembrandt and Guernica by Pablo Picasso; he also played on American scene painting in attempts to create a deeper illusion of space.

In the early 1980's Saul moved to Texas to teach at the University of Austin. He now began to depict the treatment of lower class citizens in his work, reminiscent of 19th century French Painters. In 2008 he held a retrospective in New York which received good reviews. In 2010 he was elected to be apart of the American Academy of Art and Letters. He now has work in collections all over the world and is still alive and practicing today.


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