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||Ivan Le Lorraine Albright
||February 20, 1897(1897-02-20)
North Harvey, Illinois
||November 18, 1983 (aged 86)
||Painting, Drawing, Poetry
||Art Institute of Chicago
||The Picture of Dorian Gray (1943-44)
That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door) (1931-41)
Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida (1929-30)
Portrait of Mary Block (1955-57)
Poor Room-There Is No Time, No End, No Today, No Yesterday, No
Tomorrow, Only the Forever, and Forever and Forever without End (The
Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (February 20, 1897 - November
18, 1983) was a magic realist painter and artist, most renowned for his
self-portraits, character studies, and still lifes.
Ivan Albright and his identical twin brother, Malvin, were born near Chicago
in North Harvey, Illinois, to Adam Emory Albright and Clara Wilson Albright.
Their father was a landscape painter, and came from a family of master
gunsmiths, whose original name was "Albrecht". The brothers were inseparable
during childhood, and throughout much of their young adulthood. Both enrolled
in The Art Institute of Chicago, a coin-flip deciding that Ivan would study
painting and Malvin sculpture. Ivan particularly admired the work of El Greco
and Rembrandt, but was quick to develop a style all his own.
Adam Albright moved his wife and sons to Warrenville, Illinois in 1924.
Albright attended Northwestern University, but dropped out and took up
studies in architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
During World War I he did
medical drawings for a hospital in Nantes, France, morbid work that probably
influenced his later style. After working in architecture and advertising
briefly he was pushed away by commercialism and took seriously to painting.
After living in Philadelphia through most of 1925 and 1926, he returned to
Illinois, where he began to achieve some substantial success, having his first
show in 1930.
Among Albright's typically dark, mysterious works are some of the most
meticulously executed paintings ever made, often requiring years to complete.
Lace curtains or splintered wood would be recreated using brushes of a single
hair. The amount of effort that went into his paintings made him quite
possessive of them. Even during the Great Depression he charged 30 to 60 times
what comparable artists were charging, with the result that sales were
infrequent. In order to survive he relied on the support of his father, and
took odd carpentering jobs. An early painting of his, The Lineman won
an award and made the cover of Electric Light and Power, a trade
magazine. However his stooped and forlorn portrayal caused controversy among
the readership, who did not consider such an image representative. The editors
later distanced themselves from Albright's work.
Albright focused on a few themes through most of his works, particularly
death, life, the material and the spirit, and the effects of time. He painted
very complex works, and their titles matched their complexity. He would not
name a painting until it was complete, at which time he would come up with
several possibilities, more poetic than descriptive, before deciding on one.
Such an example is Poor Room - There is No Time, No End, No Today, No
Yesterday, No Tomorrow, Only the Forever, and Forever and Forever Without End
(The Window), the last two words actually describing the painting (it was
as such the painting is generally referred). Another painting, And Man
Created God in His Own Image, was called God Created Man in His Own
Image when it toured the South. One of his most famous paintings, which
took him some ten years to complete, was titled That Which I Should Have
Done I Did Not Do (The Door), which won top prize at three major
exhibitions in New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia in 1941. The prize at
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York earned him a $3,500 purchase award
and a place in the permanent collection, but, not willing to part with the
work for less than $125,000, Albright took the First medal instead, allowing
him to keep the painting. Albright was elected to the National Academy of
Design in 1942.
In 1943 he was commissioned to create the title painting for Albert Lewin's
film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. His realistic,
but exaggerated, depictions of decay and corruption made him very well suited
to undertake such a project. His brother was chosen to do the original
uncorrupted painting of Gray, but the painting used on the film was from
Henrique Medina. Ivan made the changes in the painting during the film. This
original painting currently resides in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Albright was a prolific artist throughout his life, working as a printer
and engraver as well as a painter. He made his own paints and charcoal, and
carved his own elaborate frames. He was a stickler for detail, creating
elaborate setups for paintings before starting work. He was obsessive about
lighting to the point that he painted his studio black, and wore black
clothing to cut out potential glare.
Later in life Albright lived in Woodstock, Vermont. His last visit to his
old home town of Warrenville, Illinois was in 1978. The City declared Ivan
Albright Day, and honored Albright with a full day of festivities. Albright's
biographer, Michael Croydon, was on hand to present the newly-published
richly-illustrated book called Ivan Albright. The library featured a large
display of photographs from Albright's years spent in Warrenville.
Despite much time spent traveling the world, he never stopped working.
Albright made over twenty self-portraits in his last three years, even on his
deathbed, drawing the final ones after a stroke. He died in 1983.
On the 100th anniversary of Ivan Albright’s birth, February 20, 1997, the
Art Institute of Chicago opened a major show of his work. Appears the Man, a
photograph of Ivan Albright and his most famous work, The Picture of Dorian
Gray, can be found in the Warrenville Gallery located at the Warrenville,
Illinois City Hall.
The Ivan Albright Collection of archival materials, held by the Ryerson &
Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago, includes photographs,
scrapbooks, sketches, notebooks, a film, and other materials documenting his
life and career.
- Art Institute of Chicago 1964 Ivan Albright; a retrospective
exhibition organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in collaboration with
the Whitney Museum of American Art.
- Michael Croydon 1978 Ivan Albright. Abbeville Press, New York
- Rossen, Susan F. (ed.) 1997 Ivan Albright. [Chicago]: Art
Institute of Chicago ; New York: Distributed by Hudson Hills Press.