Esteban Vicente (1903-2001) was an innovative and highly regarded abstract painter, long-celebrated for his elegant color combinations, lyrical compositions, and his involvement in the development of American abstract art. Known as a central member of the first generation of the New York School abstract expressionists, Vicente created a vibrant body of work exceptional in its poetic colors and delicate shapes, though it does not fall into any easy category.
Through his career, Vicente found inspiration in landscapes – first in the rolling plains and farmlands of his native Spain; later, in the rich colors of his garden in Bridgehampton, New York – to obliquely capture the ever-evolving, luminous qualities of light and hue that can be found in the natural world. His paintings, bathed in atmospheric softness and a feathery palette, straddle the line between the organic and the fully abstract. This exhibition, entitled The Garden Paintings, will present a selection of the artist’s later works inspired by his Bridgehampton garden, where Vicente’s elegant style is characterized by a tonal gentleness.
Vicente was born in Turégano, Spain in 1903. At fifteen years old, he attended the School of Fine Arts of the Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid. Vicente left Europe for New York City in 1936, where he quickly found himself surrounded by many of New York’s most daring artistic and literary minds. His contemporaries and associates in New York included Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning (their 10th Street Studios were on a shared floor), and Mark Rothko.
In the 1990s, Vicente was nearing the end of a long life (he was in his 90s), but still quite actively painting and experimenting. During this time he created his well-regarded, ethereal Garden series, inspired by the view of his garden from his painting studio in Bridgehampton, New York, where he’d planted phlox, helianthus, foxgloves, daisies and morning glories. The colors of these flowers haunt his canvases like after-images. Radiating burning light and intense color, these paintings recall the golden light of early summer, or a fond memory of a long, serene afternoon.
On this series, well-known art critic Edward Lucie-Smith noted, “It is difficult to miss the affinity between Turner’s very late paintings of sunsets [and Vicente’s garden paintings]. They reveal an artist so completely in command of his medium that nothing is too daring.”