Los Angeles

Thomas Cornell

Esther Bear Gallery, Santa Barbara

This show of fifteen etchings from the series “Men of the French-Revolution,” eighteen pencil and wash drawings and sixteen paintings, is strong, honest, and undecorated.

The etchings, soon to be published in a limited edition by the Gehenna Press of Leanard and Esther Baskin, subtly range in style from two linear Ingres-­like studies of the Baheuf Brothers to a Goyaesque Danton to a banger of a black-and-white Marat. This unique series is a stylistic and technical tour de force as well as an impressive study in characterization.

Of the figure and portrait drawings the sketches for the etching series seem superior; but it is the paintings, though uneven and somewhat dated, that one finds most personal and courageous. Like most draftsmen-turned-painter, Cornell has little paint quality; his sur­faces slicken, some of his edges pop out, and he conceives in chiaroscuro not color. But in the smaller ones, “Wom­an Reading” and “Seated Figure” espe­cially, there is a feeling of light, mood, and undecorated space as effective as a Hopper; and in the larger ones, “Ju­dith Sleeping” and “Judith Reading,” there is a real drama of tonalities and large tenuous compositional movements. These paintings, though less ephemeral, are strangely reminiscent of Whistler.

Jorgen Hansen