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William Cumming (American, 1917–2010)

Poet at Big Sur

Date: 1980
Medium: Tempera on board
Object Dimensions: 36 x 36 1/8 x 3/8 in. (91.44 x 91.76 x 0.95 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Jay Jones, 1993.008
Photo Credit: Jueqian Fang
Verbal Description: At first, this composition looks non-representational. The bright colors are in gestural shapes with paint applied in short dashes. After looking at it for a while, the viewer starts to notice that it’s a slender figure sitting outside, perhaps at a beach. In the background, the top third is what would be the sky, but it’s bright yellow. The middle third of the background may be water, but it’s a light pink. The bottom third is the ground. At the center is a windswept tree that has grown into a shape that looks like the number two was rotated 90 degrees to the right. The tree is colorful: a mix of heather, sky blue, orange, and lime green. Just below the tree is a similarly colored bird perched on a hot pink rock coming out of the bottom right corner of the composition. Most of the composition is taken up by the seated figure in profile in the foreground, leaning against the left side of the painting, facing out past the tree. Their left leg is bent like the letter A, and they use their elevated knee to prop up their left elbow. They bring this arm to their mouth, posing like the artist Rodin’s famous Thinker. Their right leg is also bent, but it rests on the ground, and they bring their foot towards them. Their right arm rests on the inside of this thigh. They’re shirtless, wearing azure shorts with flecks of orange and lavender. There have no discernable facial features, and their head is bathed in a slime green, the same color that dons their right leg. Their body is mostly shades of blue, with bright orange highlighting their left side.

Collection List This object is a member of the following collections: