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JACQUELINE GOUREVITCH    


Date of birth:
1933
Paris

Profession:
Artist

Student
1950 Summer Session in the Arts

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Paintings by Gourevitch

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Jacqueline Gourevitch
 

 

In the spring of 1950 Jacqueline Herrmann (Gourevitch) was a junior at the High School of Music and Art in New York. She knew that she wanted to be a painter, and a conventional college education held little interest for her. Someone had suggested that she could study painting at Black Mountain College in the context of a general curriculum. When she learned that they had a summer program, she wrote for a brochure, thinking she would see if it made sense for later on. Both the mountainous setting - she had spent eight previous summers in western Virginia and loved the South - and seeing that Theodoros Stamos was that summer's painting teacher convinced her that she should apply.

As was often the case with new students, Jacqueline's first impressions of the college were vivid and disconcerting - the unkempt grand landscape, "ramshackle" rustic buildings, and "beautiful people going one way or another, each appearing totally focused and intent on what they were doing." She was first taken to North Lodge, the women's dormitory, and shown the large attic room which she was to share with three students - Mary Fitton Fiore, Amy Mendelson Goldin, and Lucille Krasne. Walking towards the modern "Bauhaus" Studies Building with its individual student studios,she realized this "was the landscape was looking for, with a room of my own to paint in and a view of the lake."

Jacqueline enrolled in some courses and audited others. Theodoros Stamos, taught primarily through individual tutorials, visiting students' studios to critique their work. He also set up a life drawing class with models which surprised and intrigued Jacqueline who thought of him as an abstract painter. Clement Greenberg's course in Art Criticism was to have a lasting influence. She remembered particularly his emphasis on the flatness of the picture plane and the way he established a linear progression in painting beginning with Manet and "culminating in a sort of great crescendo with the grid of Mondrian." She was amused at his concept of "the integrity of the picture plane" since she thought of integrity as "a moral quality" and the picture plane "as a given, something there for me to use." For many years Greenberg's teaching stimulated a productive "interior dialogue". "I read him and argued with him on my own. It saved me a lot of time later because I had encountered it and worked through it so early on." Gradually she came to understand his use of "integrity" as a "sort of Kantian self-definition he imposed on painting". It did not seem to apply to the painting she was most interested in and moved by. Paul Goodman's influence was not so much through his teaching as his person - "he was enormously charismatic and seductive... that was to me just utterly intriguing... it was the intensity of his person.... he would put your life into question at a very basic level, the way you conducted yourself, making you feel that you were just not free, not sexually free, or that you were perhaps too conventional...." Goodman, who that summer precipitated an "extremely disruptive" crisis, was proselytizing, speaking openly of his homosexuality in the presence of his wife and children, advocating sexual freedom. This also was new to Jacqueline.

From Hazel Larsen Archer and her assistant Andrew "Andy" Oates, who taught photography, she remembered that "because her polio confined her to a wheelchair our class met where she lived for our critiques. There was an atmosphere of extreme mutual respect, an awareness of the importance of silence, an intense meditative, spiritual quality that permeated her space, her aesthetic, and everything around her. That was new to me. I had never before met people who recognized the actual trees and stones in one another's photographs, one by one. It was inspiring. "

Experiencing the totality of that creative community immensely impressed Jacqueline who was only sixteen years old. There she first heard Bartok, Stravinsky and VillaLobos. "It seemed that's what my metabolism would sound like if I could listen to it. It sounded completely familiar. It was just an instant fit." She observed Katherine Litz and her dance students practicing in the dining hall and saw her first Buster Keaton and Eisenstein in the summer film program. "There was terrific conversation, delicious banana bread at breakfast, concerts, and great dancing parties on Saturday nights." Perhaps of most importance that summer was her sense of the validity of her vocation as an artist. "It completely reinforced and confirmed my sense of what I wanted to do, so that I emerged from there as convinced as ever that I ought to paint, wanted to paint, and maybe could paint."

Jacqueline considered returning to Black Mountain for college but felt she was not prepared to benefit from the freedom it offered. Paul Goodman had spoken very critically of the University of Chicago, describing it in a way that appealed to Jacqueline, and it was the only college she applied to. She attended the University of Chicago from 1951- 1957, taking courses in liberal arts and in Art History. In 1954, she married Victor Gourevitch, a graduate student there, who later taught Philosophy at Wesleyan University in Middletown Connecticut from 1967 to 1995. There they reared their sons Marc, a physician, and Philip, a writer.

While she took some courses at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students' League, she never got an MFA, and although she taught painting at Wesleyan University from 1978-89 and drawing at the Cooper Union from 1989-92, she did so only after years of painting independently, convinced that experience as a painter, rather than a degree, was the essential qualification for teaching art.

Jacqueline Gourevitch paints sky and clouds, encompassing earth and the city that is now her home. Her subjects are often observed from a distance, or a high place. Best known for her Cloud Paintings she has written "... Sky has always been central to my painting. It is inexhaustible. It is always there. Observing the sky inevitably leads to reflection about the fugitive, the recurring, the abiding... My painting has always been of and about nature, and intensely concerned with its translation into paint."

Since 1997 Jacqueline Gourevitch and her husband have lived in New York City where she continues to paint and exhibit her work. In 2000 Gourevitch was awarded a Studioscape Residency, sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Council, on the 91st floor in Tower #1 of the World Trade Center. Her work has been exhibited widely and is in major collections in the United States.
 

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