CM: By the time the present work was executed, Zoltan Sepeshy was instructor of painting at Cranbrook Academy of Art, and had shown his art successively at the following prestigious institutions: the Detroit Institute of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Carnegie Institute. Rich, on the other hand, was a professional student at Cranbrook who had already achieved recognition with her seminal Army & Navy Nurse memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Of comparable stature as artists, and despite their age difference of more than a decade, Sepeshy and Rich agreed to exchange artworks. Sepeshy painted the Portrait of Frances Rich, while Rich gave him an attenuated little Saint Francis bronze from a set of 12. In Sepeshy's picture, Rich stands facing front, while showing a three-quarter view of her head. It seems that Sepeshy did more a picture of a mood than a likeness of his model. Rich admitted "It's a little warped; it looks as if you were in a mirror backwards and rather harsh. Not too much like me" [Roy Slade 1981, p.120]. With distaste for the academic style, Sepeshy expressed his ideas through an avant-garde modernist approach. In keeping with his aesthetic tendency at the time, he saw this painting as combining straightforward realism with a sense of abstraction. It contains the germs of his mature style, which is intellectually intriguing and expressively suggestive. This explains the prevalence of dark over light and the claustrophobic space that is powerful, yet appeals to us with difficulty. With both thin and dense brushstrokes he penetrates the character of the sitter. This picture also demonstrates the fact that Sepeshy was a master of the tempera medium, which he had been using as his primary medium since his student days in Budapest, and which was undergoing a revival in the United States, largely owing to the publication of his book Tempera Painting (American Studio Books, New York & London, 1946). Examining this picture today, one readily sees he was recognized as a creative voice who expressed valued insights into American life and culture. The art of Sepeshy speaks with the authority of time as when it comes to the subtlety of ideas and the skill of his expression. Nostalgic about her valuable time at Cranbrook, Rich named her "Vizsla", a Hungarian pointer-retriever, "Zoltan".
[Megakles Rogakos 01/2009]
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Frances Rich - La Gazelle 2010 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens