ed. by Claudia Fontaine Chidester. Fontaine Archive, 2013. 208 p. ill. ISBN 9780988835801 (cl.), $125.00.

Reviewed January 2014
Courtney Baron, MLIS Student, Valdosta State University, clbaron@valdosta.edu

Work Standing Up: The Life and Art of Paul Fontaine is edited by Claudia Fontaine Chidester, the artist’s daughter, and was published by the Fontaine Archive to accompany a centennial retrospective exhibition on the artist at the Martin Museum at Baylor University. Fontaine was an American abstract expressionist painter but spent most of his life as an expatriate living in Germany and Mexico before returning to the United States for the last four years of his life. The book is divided into two parts: an intimate portrayal of the artist’s life and values, and three scholarly essays focusing on different artistic periods in his career. The volume features stunning, full-color illustrations of Fontaine’s work plus previously unpublished photographs from his life and the community of artists who surrounded him.

Claudia Fontaine Chidester provides a touching pictorial biography of her father organized by life lessons, such as “what seems like an obstacle may be an opportunity,” that add a personal touch rarely found in monographs on artists. Researcher Margaret Stenz’s essay focuses on Fontaine’s early life, from his education in painting at Yale to the Depression era where he was trained in the social-realist style of WPA murals. Mary Brantl, associate professor at St. Edward’s University, highlights Fontaine’s twenty-five years in post-war Germany, including his time as the art director of the European edition of Stars and Stripes from 1953-1970. She comments on Fontaine’s unique position among the contrasting American abstract expressionists and the European humanists. Robert Linsley, art critic, places Fontaine with the midcentury American abstract expressionists and describes the two decades he lived in Mexico.

An artist statement written by Fontaine himself in 1949 provides insight into the depth of his artistry and impact on the art world. The statement is reproduced in German and Spanish, appropriately showcasing the internationalism of Fontaine’s life and work. The book concludes with a list of exhibitions from 1935-1995 and a chronology of life from his birth in 1913 until his death in 1996. The result is a comprehensive guide that depicts how Paul Fontaine turned life itself into a work of art.

This book is the ultimate resource on Paul Fontaine and aims to make his work accessible to all viewers regardless of background but is especially appropriate for twentieth-century art historians and researchers. It is highly recommended for academic or art libraries with an interest in modern art.

© 2014 ARLIS/NA