Claude Buck

Claude Buck, “Self Portrait”, 1917, Charcoal and Crayon on Paper Mounted on Paper-Board Sheet, 20 x 12.7 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC

Claude Buck started to paint when he was very young; at the age of eight he applied to be a copyist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum rejected him because of his age, but Buck kept asking and three years later was finally granted permission to copy the old master paintings. Buck was the youngest artist ever to study at the National Academy of Design, where he spent eight years creating works inspired by romantic literature.

In 1917, Claude Buck founded the ‘Introspectives’, a group of four painters who created surreal images and believed that the ‘poetry’ of a picture meant more than the imitation or even the representation of nature. Later in his career, however, Buck completely rejected these strange, dreamlike themes and joined the Society for Sanity in Art, which celebrated straightforward, representational painting. He was also a leading member of the avant-garde Symbolism artist movement in Chicago.

Claude Buck was known for his fantastic, sometimes disturbing images with allegorical and literary themes drawn from writings of Edgar Allen Poe, operas by Richard Wagner, classical mythology and New Testament writings from the Bible. Some of his early paintings had Luminist movement elements achieved with light-toned paints worked with transparent glazes.

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