A Tribute to Irving Petlin

The National Arts Club, 15 S Gramercy Park, New York, NY 

October 30, 2017 – January 4, 2018


In cooperation with Kent Fine Art, The National Arts Club is pleased to announce the exhibition

A TRIBUTE TO IRVING PETLIN - October 30, 2017 - January 4, 2018

Opening Reception : November 1, 2017, 6:00 - 8:00 PM


Irving Petlin’s engagement with the world of art spans over seven decades, beginning with his childhood scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His earliest artist associations were with Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, Cliff Westerman, Matta and the Chicago School before attending Yale University through an invitation from Joseph Albers. At that time, the late 50s, Petlin’s work developed at Yale University as well as during his service in military intelligence at the Presidio, San Francisco - sneaking away at night to paint at the infamous Monkey Block with artists such as Elmer Bischoff. Following his graduation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he received a Ryerson Fellowship to work in Paris where he first established his career, including an exhibition at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, before returning to the United States as a Lecturer for the University of California.

Petlin’s mastery as draftsman and as a colorist is unmistakable in the series Storms: After Redon. Due to Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 premiere viewing of these works was cancelled. The series will be presented here for the first time. Working on irregular sheets of handmade paper in the unforgiving but radiant medium of pastel, Petlin executes the act of drawing as a gamble between control and risk. Underlying the series is Petlin’s subtle and persistent commitment to history and its telling.

Presently, Petlin’s work is being featured in a special exhibition at the Petit Palais entitled L’art du pastel de Degas à Redon through April 8. Of no small coincidence is the fact that Petlin’s pastels come from but one source, Isabelle Roché of La Maison du Pastel which is referenced in this exhibition with a painting entitledEncounter at the Maison du Pastel (1983) portraying Petlin and friend R.B. Kitaj during a surprise encounter with Sam Zafran who absconded with Petlin’s famous studio at 13 rue du Crussol near the Place de la République. 

Also presented here are a series of four monumental paintings evidencing Petlin’s commitment to referencing major historical developments in the tradition of Goya. Révolution Pastorale (1978 -81), Hebron (1998-2001),The Eleventh of January (2009) and the most recent Madonna of Slavery series (2015) are all key works in Petlin’s oeuvre.


Essays by Max Kozloff and Jon Hendricks will be featured in an online folio currently in preparation that will be available on The National Arts Club website - www.nationalartsclub.org - in late October.

A Tribute to Irving Petlin at The National Arts Club is available for public viewing Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM. For weekend hours, please call 212-475- 3424. For more information on this exhibition and The National Arts Club please contact Robert Yahner, Registrar - Fine Arts ryahner@thenationalartsclub.org

The mission of The National Arts Club is to stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts. It was founded in 1898 by Charles de Kay, a literary and art critic for The New York Times. The Tilden Mansion at 15 Gramercy Park South, a National Historic Landmark, has been the home of The National Arts Club since 1906.



petlin_2012_Towed toSea (1912).jpg

Irving Petlin’s Armada of Discontent

Whatever your life story, it is part of a larger history – this is what Petlin recognizes and is perhaps why he suppresses the personal or anecdotal.

December 3, 2017 | Hyperallergic | John Yau

2015_Madonna of slavery IV, Huile sur toile, 73 x 60 cm, Paris.jpg

Irving Petlin with Elyse Benenson

Irving Petlin is the world’s premier living pastel artist. He is currently an expatriate, living in Paris, France. We sat down at the National Arts Club to discuss his current exhibition there, and his history as an activist and artist.

December 13, 2017 | Brooklyn Rail | Elyse Benenson