For the Love of Pure Paint: 4 Key Works by David Park

In 1949, when Abstract Expressionism was considered the only relevant style among American avant-garde painters, David Park did something altogether radical: he started painting what he called “pictures,” which to him really meant “people.” The decision led to the development of Bay Area Figurative Art, an artistic style that revived interest in depicting the scenes of everyday life.

Learn more about Park (1911-1960) from Janet Bishop, the museum’s Thomas Weisel Family Chief Curator and the lead curator of David Park: A Retrospective. In the videos below, she offers insight into four of the artist’s boldly executed compositions.

A Fresh Start

Park shocked his peers when he debuted Rehearsal (1949), one of his first figurative canvases after ditching abstraction. His subject is the Studio 13 Jazz Band — along with a few of his notable contemporaries!

“Coca-Cola Red”

Let’s fast forward to 1954. Like many of his works from this period, Boston Street Scene demonstrates the artist’s love of bright colors and his experimental approach to scale.

Knowledge of the Human Form

Park relished in the expressive and sensuous qualities of pure paint. Take a closer look at Two Bathers (1958) and see how he used just a few dabs to bring his subjects — real or imagined — to life.

In Full Command

The Cellist, painted in the fall of 1959, is widely believed to be the last oil painting Park completed. The work depicts an artist in full communion with their instrument.