SchoolArts Magazine

February 2016

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Page 27 of 54

M agical realism is a twentieth-century arts genre that includes visual art, film, and lit - erature. Characteristics of magical realism include highly detailed, realistic images and environments combined to create scenes that are not necessarily logical to the waking mind. As a result, magi - cal realism is sometimes confused with surrealism. A key difference is that magical realism freely shows real - istically rendered objects or people in settings that are improbable. Surrealism depicts objects or people in set - tings that are physically impossible. An artist whose work deals with magical realism is Philip C. Curtis. Rigidly straight horizon lines, shallow space, musical references, people in period costumes, and implied passage of time are frequently shown in his work. Philip C. Curtis (1907–2000) Michigan native Philip Campbell Curtis was born into a family that placed a high value on education. Curtis developed an early interest in the arts, which continued throughout his life. Although Curtis briefly studied law, he quickly recognized that art was his true passion. Upon earning a degree in art from Yale, Curtis was hired as an assistant supervisor of mural paintings for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA transferred Curtis to Phoenix, Arizona, where he founded what is now known as the Phoenix Art Museum. After World War II, Curtis permanently settled in Scottsdale. His stu - dio windows overlooked a vast expanse of desert, which is often depicted in his work. A collection of Curtis's paint - ings can be seen in a permanent exhibition space at the Phoenix Art Museum. About the Artwork Hallmarks of Curtis's style are clearly seen in the fittingly titled painting, Confrontation. A straight horizon line divides the green and yellow sky from a starkly painted desert. The sky might be read as a lush curtain, while the unembellished desert resembles a stage. Central to the painting are two men, each seated on thrones within canopied platforms. The men have come face-to-face in what appears to be a stalemate. With postures that convey a sense of calm mixed with strong determination, the men seem to be unwavering in their individual paths. These mysterious characters and the objects around them pose more questions than answers. In The Bugler # 25, four young boys play among seven tall, thin trees. Two of the boys have musical instruments while the other two ride stick horses. The stiff poses of the boys resemble antique wind-up toys. Lush leaves on the trees contradict flat tree trunks and barren earth. A beautifully detailed red cord on the bugle contrasts with the simplified clothing worn by the boys. Shallow space is created by a yellow-green sky, brown earth, and an almost perfectly straight horizon—a suggestion that the sky is a theatrical curtain and the ground is a stage. Magical Realism and the Art of Philip C. Curtis SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 23 L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G P H I L I P C . C U R T I S A m e r i c a n m a g i c a l r e a l i s t p a i n t e r Philip C. Curtis, Confrontation, 1967. Oil on wood, 28½ x 45½" (72 x 116 cm). The Marguerite Het- tel Weiss Collection, Northern Arizona University Art Museum. Photo by David Shaffer.

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