During the early 1960s, with Pop Art in full swing, one of its earliest exponents had already moved away from its ideas and was striking out on his own. Marked by a compulsive repetition of subject matter yet tempered with humanity and warmth, the prints, paintings, drawings and sculptures that Jim Dine produced over the next 60 years form one of the most original bodies of work in 20th- and 21st-century art.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dine spent his childhood above his family’s hardware store. After training at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and the Boston Museum School, he moved to New York and began to mix in Beat and early Pop-Art circles. His first works took the form of ‘Happenings’ – chaotic, ramshackle performances popular among the New York avant-garde of the late 1950s. But, even at this early stage, his work was already characterised by an obsession with everyday objects.
By the early Sixties Dine had moved towards a more intimate and representational approach. A series of headless self-portraits in 1964 culminated in Double Isometric Self-Portrait (1964) and the first appearance of one of his enduring motifs, the men’s dressing gown.
Dine depicted commonplace items, such as dressing gowns, and archetypal shapes such as the heart or the Venus de Milo, and repeated them through countless permutations of colour and medium, from delicate prints to vast bronze sculptures. While repetition was a common motif in Pop Art, Dine employed it to a very different end. Pop was playing with art as mass culture; Dine was imposing a personal, lyrical individualism upon his faceless archetypes.
After moving to London in 1967, his work became obliquely autobiographical. He began to use writing in his painting, often the names of loved ones, and many of his titles, such as Nancy and I at Ithaca (1966-9), carry a deeply personal meaning.
A uniquely prolific and diverse artist, Dine returned to live and work in the United States in the 1970s.
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