American painter David Park [1911-1960] was a pioneer of the Bay Area Figurative School of painting during the 1950s. David Park was part of the post-World War II alumnae of the San Francisco Art Institute which was called the California School of Fine Arts at the time. He revived an interest in figurative art, at first experimenting with still-abstracted forms that relied on color for their impact, dynamics and warmth.
Park, along with Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff, broke away from the philosophy of painting promoted by Clyfford Still, who taught at the Institute, forming what would later be called the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Their influence may be seen in the work of later Bay Area Figurative School artists such as Paul John Wonner, Nathan Oliveira, Manuel Neri, Henry Villierme and Joan Brown. Although these painters started out painting in what was called an objective style, deploying abstract shapes in large space, they soon migrated to using the physical world and representative subjects to experiment with shape, color, texture and temperature in their painting.
Park realized that concentrating on principle and abstraction drew attention to the painter rather than the painting. He felt that it was important to focus on the present, to develop responses to nature. "I believe that we are living at a time that overemphasizes the need of newness, of furthering concepts". David worked with figurative painting from about 1950 until about 1959 when he became ill with cancer. Usually working from memory, he initially painted what he saw: kids playing in the street, musicians, his friends, people in their houses. Toward the end of the decade he painted classical studio nudes and bathers in a monumental style. After he become too ill to work with oils, he continued working with watercolors which he produced until his early death in 1960.He had a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, 1988-1989.
His 'Standing Male Nude in the Shower', painted between 1955-57, sold for $1,160,000 at Sotheby’s New York on May 15, 2007.
- The Bay Area Figurative Movement was a mid-20th Century art movement made up of a group of artists in the San Francisco Bay Area who abandoned working in the prevailing style of Abstract Expressionism in favor of a return to figuration in painting during the 1950s and onward into the 1960s.
Spanning two decades, this art movement is often broken down into three groups, or generations: the First Generation, the Bridge Generation, and the Second Generation. Many of the "First Generation" artists in this movement were avid fans of Abstract Expressionism, and worked in that manner, until several of them abandoned non-objective painting in favor of working with the figure.
Among these First Generation Bay Area Figurative School artists were: David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, Wayne Thiebaud, and James Weeks.
The "Bridge Generation" included the artists: Nathan Oliveira, Theophilus Brown, Paul John Wonner, Roland Petersen, Frank Lobdell.
Many "Second Generation" artists of this movement studied under the First Generation artists, or were late starters. Among these Second Generation artists were: Bruce McGaw, Henry Villierme, Joan Brown and Manuel Neri. Many San Francisco area schools and institutions were important to the development and refinement of this art movement, including: the San Francisco Art Institute, the California College of Arts and Crafts, and University of California, Berkeley.