It is great to see Lucien’s paintings again, a number of which I had not seen before seeing them in storage last month.
  Many artists start out painting in a very directly emotional way and then become more analytical in their middle years, and I see that here with Lucien’s work, his early large works so directly inspired by nature, then his later curved works  where he looked to understand perspective and how we see.

 Lucien Day (born 1916) spent summers in Vermont when a boy- he remembered bring on the big paddle wheel "The Lady of the Lake" on Lake Memphremagog where musical performances, like Gilbert and Sullivan, would be put on. Many landscape painters return to paint scenes of their actual childhood - to recreate childhood nature epiphanies and I imagine Lucien having what might be called childhood spiritual moments roaming the Vermont countryside in 1930.   Once, perhaps when he was about 20, his father went with him to visit Alfred Stieglitz's pathfinding art gallery in New York City - perhaps an important visit because in 1968 he would open a gallery much like Stieglitz's, named The Green Mountain Gallery.  
  This gallery Lucien started, The Green Mountain Gallery, was in the West Village, not uptown where most of the galleries were. Like Stieglitz, he opened the gallery to show his work and others who were having trouble finding establishment galleries; artists he took on included representational painters like Lois Dodd, Rudy Burckhardt and Gretna Campbell, abstract expressionists whose work had fallen out of favor like Ernest Briggs and Edward Dugmore and younger artists in their mid to late 20's like Marjorie Kramer, Norman Turner and Noah Baen. He liked individualistic artists, for he was one. He gave Maria Lassnig and Howard Daum shows when they were still unknown.
  The gallery was never economically profitable, and after about ten years the gallery changed its name to The Blue Mountain Gallery and turned into a coop where he continued to show. It is still a gallery under that name.

  Lucien went to Cranbrook Academy sometime after graduating Yale.  At his visit to Stieglitz’s gallery he reportedly saw the work of John Marin, a painter Lucien would feel close to for two reasons, I think: because Marin was a landscape painter and because Marin relied on intuition and feeling nature, not on conceptual constructions.   They both had an artist's love of nature. Lucien was less Cubist and more Expressionist in his interpretation of nature than Marin. Marin's use of gesture was not that typical of the time, as most American painters, both abstract and representational, were more conceptual- think of Grant Wood or Stewart Davis. The new emotional loosening of gesture that was in the air in the late forties and fifties which was an important component of abstract expressionism was also picked up by representational artists like Lucien, as seen in these large early works.

 During the second half of his life he introduced more human made things to his paintings: roads, cabins, houses, until he reached the biggest, newest man-made thing around, the in-construction World Trade Center buildings. These giant buildings-being-built really dominated views of lower Manhattan- I think Lucien took them as symbols of the surprising world we find ourselves in.  Also, in common with the new representational painters who were his peers. the outlines in his work became more fixed and details became clearer. Impulsive expression lessened somewhat and Lucien became more interested in theories of perception and perspective, hence the curved paintings.
  During the last decades of his life, though, he returned to his more directly done, expressionist beginnings, taking his grey van out, often on the top of Route 58 in Lowell and elsewhere and doing small brightly colored interpretations of nature. Being small and portable - I am assuming the larger early works were worked in the studio - he finished his painting life by working most directly from nature.

Sam Thurston

Talk given at Highland Center for the Arts, Greensboro, Vt.  August 3, 2017

*Other people Lucien showed included Robert Pittenger, Richard Perry, Robert de Niro Sr., Stanley Lewis, Paul Georges, Roger Howrigan, Michael Chelminski , Pat Mainardi, Harriett Shorr, Eugene Baguskas, Sam Gelber, Robert Henry, Theophil Groell, Theo Jefferson Coates, Edith Schloss, Janet Sawyer among others I an not at this time remember.


 
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