Maurice Schmidt

Viejos in Park - Maurice  Schmidt

Viejos in Park, 1980

Painting oil on linen  
50 x 60 in

"This was a painting that I deliberately went looking for. I wanted to do a painting like the painters of earlier centuries, figurative work wherin real people sat and posed. Only a few blocks away from where we lived, there was a gas station. It had been there many years on sixth street and I noticed old men hung around there to visit. Its unique feature was a circular concrete umbrella that shaded the gas pumping area. I had patronized it often. When I was growing up, filling stations were sometimes small scale socializing places, especially if they sold some groceries, sodas, and tobacco. They were the most informal places perhaps in the world and made no demands on their clientele's dress or social status. I arrived with my charcoal pad and there were the two gentlemen you see here. They were happy to pose and enjoyed the attention. Usually I pay a little when I ask people to pose but I honestly do not remember if I paid these gentlemen. I hope so. I drew each one in turn, separately, a head and shoulders portrait, but also observed hands and body positions. They sat in their habitual ways. I didn't actually pose them. I made the drawings in a little over and hour, thanked them and got ready to leave. And then a most wonderful thing happened. They stood up and put their arms around each other's shoulders and sang me a sweet old Hispanic song. They were quite a duet. We had hardly spoken to each other, but between my silent drawing and their mellow singing, we parted as friends. I wanted my scene to be in a park, under a palm tree with the men on a bench, the light pouring over them like gentle rain, soaking surfaces and missing shadows. The elderly woman is an invention. She wasn't actually there but I wanted a third figure. The background and the bench play major roles in the composition giving it a deep thrust backward into an implied space. The arches formed by benches legs and the spaces between the mens' legs suggest architectural elements. Such compositions which combine living human forms and geometric element are not mechanically planned. It comes with seeing. The men's hats, heads and feet are also somewhat geometricized. It's the same cube, cylinder and cone principle that Cezanne talked about and that was taught in all the art schools. But as with any knowledge, to understand it you have to go beyond reading about it. You have to teach yourself to see it by seeing it in the real world around you. Then it flows out the end of your brush." excerpt from the book "Maurice Schmidt, A Life in Art"

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