Drawing Inspiration: Red Grooms

Alyssa Dumire, Director of Children’s Education

Happy Birthday, Red Grooms!

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards alum and mixed-media artist Red Grooms celebrates his 81st birthday on June 7. In its 95-year history, the Scholastic Awards have played an early role in the development of myriad influential and innovative artists. In Drawing Inspiration, we’ll celebrate them through their work in the FWMoA permanent collection.

Red Grooms knew from an early age that he would become an artist. He started taking drawing lessons at age ten, and would continue his artistic training outside of school as a teenager. As a child, Grooms remembers assembling model airplanes from paper kits, cutting out the pieces, folding tabs, and gluing them together. Much later on, Grooms’ printed paper sculptures such as Gertrude, below, were informed by that process.

Gertrude is the name of the woman sitting on a flower printed, pink chair. Her black hair is pulled up in a bun and she wears a printed blouse and black skirt with a yellow trim.
Red Grooms, American, b. 1937. Gertrude. Lithograph and collage, 1975. Anonymous donation, 1975.02. Photo courtesy of FWMoA. Used with permission from: © 2018 Red Grooms / Artists Rights Society. (ARS), New York.

Gertrude is a caricature of writer and art patron Gertrude Stein. Grooms borrowed the likeness from Picasso’s famous portrait of Stein, but the style and technique is entirely his own. Stein’s severe, dark brown outfit is brightened up, and though she still makes an imposing figure, she’s softened and almost grandmotherly here. This was one of Grooms’ first three-dimensional prints—a lithograph that’s been cut, folded, and glued into a sculpture reminiscent of a pop-up book illustration, or, of course, the model airplanes he assembled as a child. Grooms had also bought his first hot glue gun in 1973, which spurred his creation of a number of printed paper sculptures like Gertrude.

Grooms’ sense of humor and critical eye are apparent in much of his work, especially Gertrude. In this relatively simple work, he’s able to both pay homage to and satirize two looming art historical figures. We often discuss originality, one of the three criteria, in regards to the Scholastic Awards and Gertrude is exemplary of a work that, while drawing obvious inspiration from an existing work, is unquestionably Red Grooms’.

Want to learn more about the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards? Click here: Scholastic

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