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Jim DINE

United States of America born 1935

An animal 1961 paintings, oil and pelt on canvas
Technique: oil and pelt on canvas
Primary Insc: No inscriptions
183.0 h x 153.0 w cm
Framed 1844 h x 1544 w x 70 d mm
Purchased 1980
Accession No: NGA 80.3926
© Jim Dine

Provenance:
  • the artist;
  • from whom bought through Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, by Mr and Mrs Burton Tremaine, Hartford, Connecticut, 1962;
  • from whom bought through The Pace Gallery, New York, by the Australian National Gallery, November 1980
  • After Jim Dine moved to New York in 1958 he became associated with a group of artists, including Allan Kaprow and Claes Oldenburg, who created performance art events or 'Happenings'. This established Dine as an artist who queried the categories of conventional media such as oil painting, implacably separated from bronze or marble sculpture. Nonetheless, An animal is one of a group of works begun by Dine in 1961 in which the legacy of recent art is still apparent in the free, painterly technique of its oil paint. But the paintings were combined with real objects fixed to the surface, with their identity written below.

    In An animal, an old fur coat is spread out flat across the upper part of the canvas, while the lower part is covered with the lush, turbulent surface of an Abstract Expressionist style of oil painting. Across the bottom, Dine has inscribed 'an animal' in capital letters. Thus he lampoons the 'sensuous skin' of Abstract Expressionism. He also explores the relationship between linguistic symbol, painted surface, and real objects; 'It was an idea I had like a lot of my pictures then, that a painting should be an object'.[1]

    The real fur in An animal came ‘from a ratty old coat I got at a junk store that gave me the appearance of a Russian bum, mainly because my people come from Eastern Europe … Everything was grist for my mill and I've always believed in making a silk purse from a sow's ear.’[2] By removing the bearskin from its normal human uses—as clothing, as a rug—and naming it, Dine reasserts its original purpose, to cover the living creature. He also questions the two-dimensionality of painting: taking the rug from the floor and placing it on the wall denies illusionism, the assertion that traditional art truthfully represents three-dimensional reality.

    Michael Lloyd, Michael Desmond and Christine Dixon[3]

     

    [1] Dine, correspondence, 16 June 1986, NGA file 82/0427–01

    [2] See note 1 above

    [3] Michael Lloyd and Michael Desmond, European and American paintings and sculptures 1870–1970 in the Australian National Gallery, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1992, pp 312–13; adapted by Christine Dixon, Senior Curator, International Painting and Sculpture, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2009


    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: National Gallery of Australia exhibition SoftSculpture (reference )

  • An animal is one of a group of paintings which Dine began at the end of 1961 in which the legacy of Abstract Expressionism is still apparent in the free, painterly technique, but is combined with real objects fixed to the surface of their written equivalents.1 An animal an old fur coat is spread out flat across the upper part of the canvas, while the lower part is covered with the lush, turbulent surface of an Abstract Expressionist style of painting. Across the bottom, in capital letters, Dine has painted the words 'an animal'. Thus he teasingly lampoons the 'sensuous skin' of Abstract Expressionism - 'Martha Jackson said that the picture reminded her of Clyfford Still', Dine recalled, and that Still's paintings 'reminded her of pony skins'. At the same time Dine explores the relationship between linguistic symbol, painted surface, and real objects; 'It was an idea I had like a lot of my pictures then, that a painting should be an object'.2

    As for the real fur in An animal: 'It was made from a ratty old coat I got at a junk store that gave me the appearance of a Russian bum, mainly because my people come from Eastern Europe and I do have the visage of the semi-tartar … Everything was grist for my mill and I've always believed in making a silk purse from a sow's ear.'3

    The Gallery owns a second later painting by Dine, The Crommelynck gate (Hiroshima clock) 1983.

    Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.312.

    1. On occasions in the past the painting has been assigned the date 1962. Dine has emphatically confirmed the date as 1961 in his correspondence with the Gallery, 16 June 1986.
    2. Dine, op. cit. Martha Jackson organised Dine's first solo exhibition of paintings in 1962, the first given to a Pop artist by an uptown dealer, and remained his dealer during the early 1960s.
    3. Dine, op. cit.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010