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Jerome Paul Witkin Essay

The work of art that I chose is Jeff Davies, an oil painting painted in 1976 by Jerome Paul Witkin. It depicts a man, presumably named Jeff Davies, standing and taking up the entire frame of the picture. He is wearing a plain tee shirt which is stretched over and exposing a bit of his protruding stomach, a pair of worn jeans, a huge down coat, and a hat. He stands in a plain, dirty-looking room. At the very bottom of the painting is the edge of a table and a mostly empty plate. Everything about Jeff Davies says manliness: his burly stature, his graying beard, his dirty work clothes.

His hands are stuffed in his pockets, he’s frowning, he’s rolling one eye and the other is squeezed shut. The way that he stands in front of his plate with no chair in sight makes me think that this man doesn’t sit down or stay still for long. And yet, the flaws of Jeff Davies that are depicted make the picture seem completely authentic, holding nothing back from the viewers. However, this painting was painted by Jerome Paul Witkin, he is New York painter, born in 1939. Since he was born around the time of the Great Depression, it makes sense that Witkin’s work should reflect social realism, depicting a working class man as its subject.

Witkin “believes that moral values are as important as formal or aesthetic ones. ” So maybe it wasn’t so far-fetched of me to think of Jeff Davies as an honest man and the hero of the painting, instead of just its subject. On the other hand, the other painting that I chose is The Act of Judith and it’s also was painted by Jerome Paul Witkin on 1979-80. However, The painting features what looks to be a middle-aged Native American woman offering a mask that she has made to a person whose hand is only seen.

Evidence supporting my observation of her as a Native includes her hairstyle, dress, and darker skin tone. The conclusion that she made the mask comes from the work space she is in, the tools surrounding her, and the paint on her hands. She wears an expressionless face and gazes directly out at the viewer. Upon further consideration, I feel that the viewer is represented as the person receiving the mask via the hand in the lower right corner. This interpretation means that we, as the viewer, have no choice but to be a part of this painting. We are forced to consider the meaning because it involves us.


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