Several years ago the Cincinnati Art Museum held a retrospective of Jim Dine’s work. We found the exhibition wonderful, and we were thrilled by the artist’s use of color and symbolic themes. We were also happy to learn that this major Pop Art figure is a local native. Dine was born in Cincinnati on June 16, 1935, to Stanley Cohen and Eunice Cohen Dine, second-generation Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. His family owned a local hardware store (which helps explain his preoccupation with painting images of tools throughout his career). Dine began painting as early as age two and could frequently be found in his grandparents’ basement, painting on whatever surfaces he could find. While at Walnut Hills High School (our son J’s alma mater) Dine started taking art classes from local artist Vincent Taylor and attended evening classes at the Art Academy. He then worked at the Cincinnati Art Museum where he was particularly drawn to works by Cincinnati artists Frank Duveneck and John Henry Twachtman. After Walnut Hills, Dine attended the University of Cincinnati initially, but then went on to study at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and complete his BFA degree at Ohio University in Athens. Though he began graduate study at Ohio U., the draw of New York’s art world was too strong, and he moved to the city with his wife, Nancy Minto, in 1958. The couple eventually had three sons and two daughters. Dine began teaching high school art classes and soon became involved with Claes Olderburg, Robert Rauschenberg, and Roy Lichtenstein, all of whose work was moving away from abstract expressionism and toward pop art. The Pop Artists reacted against abstraction and a refined sense of aesthetics, preferring to portray ordinary objects in ordinary life. Andy Warhol was painting soup cans; Lichtenstein, comic book images; Dine, men’s neckties. Between 1960 and 1965 Dine held various guest professorships, including positions at Yale and Oberlin.
Dine has completed over 3,000 works – paintings, prints, sculptures, performance art works -- over the course of his fifty plus year career. Many are depictions of typical everyday objects, e.g., the tools his family sold during his childhood. “I’d be fascinated by them,” Dine said. “They’re a metaphor for the hands.” In his early work Dine combined painting and found objects, salvaged from the city’s streets to create collages with highly emotional content. (My brother Peter did so too for a number of years and may well have been influenced by Jim Dine’s work.) Many of Dine’s paintings included a transparent bathrobe without a figure, interpreted by critics as a metaphor for a self-portrait. Other images include a large heart, symbolizing the artist’s emotional experiences. Dine turned to sculpture in the early 1980’s, creating works based on Venus de Milo. His recent art uses images from ancient Greek, African, and Egyptian objects.
Dine is widely recognized as one of the most innovative artists of the second half of the twentieth century. Three years ago our Art Museum presented him with its first Cincinnati Art Award which recognizes “a Cincinnatian who has had a significant impact on our culture at national and international levels through the making, collecting or promotion of visual art.” Embarrassed, Dine commented, “Aw, gee. I don’t relish these things. I’m not a politician or a public speaker. I let my work speak for me.” And so it does.
-Vicki L (11-15): Hi David, Thanks for expanding my world. Maybe you should send this along to Chris and Jessica? I'm struck by the contrast in Dine's work between hearts and skeletons - it resonates… Love, Vicki
-Phyllis S-S (11-10): Dave, I had no idea he was from Cincinnati. Interesting. I find his paintings colorfully insipid though. Phyllis