An etching of hand tools

Jim Dine (American, born 1935)
Dartmouth Still Life, 1974–76 Edition: 30; artist’s proof Etching with hand coloring in crayon
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By Dennis Harper, curator of collections and exhibitions

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Jim Dine took classes at the Cincinnati Art Academy while still in high school and attended the University of Cincinnati, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and Ohio University before moving to New York in 1959, where he began a long and celebrated career as an artist. Along with fellow artists Claes Oldenburg, Red Grooms, and Allan Kaprow, Dine was a pioneer creator of “Happenings”—spontaneous and multi-disciplinary art performances conducted in lofts, basements, and outdoor environments of bohemian New York.

An etching of hand tools

In the 1960s, he was closely associated with the development of Pop Art, though Dine’s work mostly avoided the cool detachment from subject matter that characterized much of the movement. Instead, his recurring subjects are highly personal in content and expressionistic in technique. A skilled draughtsman, Dine has created numerous paintings and graphic works that offer a kind of autobiography through objects, most frequently an invisible figure in a bathrobe as an iconic self-portrait, emblems of a heart to represent his love for his wife, and assemblies of tools that hold special meaning in his life.

Detail of printing tools

Dartmouth Still Life is an elegant example from one of the most significant periods in his career. This richly rendered etching is the second in a series of four variations on the composition. The initial working of the plate, titled The Wrench in Nature, showed the single large wrench isolated in the center of the plate. More tools were added for the present impression and again in the subsequent Pink Chinese Scissors, and final state, Piranesi’s 24 Colored Marks. The tools depicted here make reference to Dine’s practice of printmaking but also carry other autobiographical associations. The artist’s father and grandfather ran a hardware store in Cincinnati that sold plumbing and house painting tools and supplies.

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