Myself in My Overcoat in the Winter Wind, 1960s, lithograph, artist’s proof.
Paul Suttman is recognized as one of the United States' most distinguished representational sculptors. His work is prized for the elegance of its traditional craftsmanship and the imaginativeness of its modern vision. Known for his bronze figures, still lifes and art historical reinterpretations, Suttman stresses the formal, and sometimes surreal, aspects of objects, creating unforgettable sculptures that radiate vitality and technical brilliance. Suttman's figurative sculptures of the 1960s combine impressionistic surfaces with deep emotional content. Strong, flowing modeling captures both the artist's gestures and the telling postures that reveal the inner life of graceful and pensive subjects.
Beginning in the 1970s Suttman turned to still life compositions that are characterized by their wit, elegance and dynamism. He places fruit, bottles and other familiar still-life forms in precariously balanced, or unbalanced, arrangements, full of implicit movement. Objects take on qualities antithetical to their essential natures: drapery stands by itself; bronze paper bags pile up like boulders; apples and pears grow to monumental size.
One of Suttman's enduring interests is the combination of different temporal, spatial and emotional states; another is the contrast between the illusionistic appearance of painting and the three-dimensional reality of sculpture. He presents these themes in relief sculptures by imbedding forms in overlapping pictorial planes, in lithographs by depicting unexpected aspects of everyday scenes, and in still-life compositions by overstepping ordinary spatial limits and borrowing color from painting.
In his full maturity Suttman's multidimensional interests were extended in a major group of works, the Master-pieces, which juxtapose his reinterpretations of elements from different artists and art historical traditions. Motifs from 20th-century masters of Cubism and Futurism are placed in direct, and often witty, dialogue with Renaissance and Classical traditions. Complex pedestals, integral to the sculptures, extend their layers of meaning and create added dialogue between architectural elements and human and animal figures.
Suttman studied in New Mexico and Michigan, and with Giacomo Manzù and bronze-casting masters in Italy and France. The precision and humanism of his work was greatly influenced by his early training in architecture, wide travels, and lifelong study of the history of art. The technical and historical wisdom gained from these experiences were passed on to his many students, in Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas, New York and Connecticut.
Paul Suttman died at his home in Connecticut in 1993. A retrospective of his sculpture traveled to New Mexico, Texas, Michigan and Connecticut in 1996 and 1997.