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Sidney Goodman

(1936 - -)

Sidney Goodman is among the nation’s most recognized and important, living, figurative artists and teachers. Influenced at first by Abstract Expressionism (the art trend of his generation), he was also preoccupied with the idea of distorting the figure. This artist effectively blends the basic elements of classical art with his own sense of naturalism to form a style that identifies and expresses the complexities of the human condition.

Sidney Goodman was born in 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents, Russian-Jewish immigrants, came to America in the 1920’s to achieve the American dream. The family opened up a fur store and trained young Sidney in the hopes that he would take over the business one day. However, Sidney had his own dreams as he aspired to become a professional baseball player. When a knee injury took him out of the game, he spent the summer drawing and unearthed his very special talent.

In 1954, Goodman entered the Philadelphia College of Art, where he studied illustration. He achieved national recognition shortly after earning his degree in 1958. He took on a teaching position at the college, where he remained for about twenty years until joining the faculty of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

The concepts of Goodman’s artwork are derived from personal experience as he paints pictures of mortality and the transience of life around him. Being Jewish, the artist felt a kinship with the victims of the Holocaust, realizing that, had his family not moved to the U. S., he could have suffered the same fate. During this period, he channeled his shock and rage into his work and produced some masterpieces. 

In 1961, Goodman was awarded the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Neysa McMein Purchase Award at his debut exhibition in New York. This status allowed him to be included in future exhibitions at the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Over the years, Sidney Goodman has been the recipient of many other commemorating awards and fellowships.

Goodman’s depiction of nudes, a blend of form and content, helped to renew an interest in realism and the human figure as a subject in art during the 1960’s. He began to rely on memory and used black and white photographs to replace the live models he had previously used. Many of his works are narrative pieces, mysterious in their statement as they fail to give the viewer the whole story. They force the viewer to make assumptions. For instance, ‘Man Holding Victim’ (1990) could suggest that man can inflict pain on another man…or it could imply that man can rescue another man. Which is it? The artist leaves the interpretation up to the viewer. 

In 1996, a retrospective of Sidney Goodman’s life’s works was held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He was elected to the National Academy of Design and still teaches at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His work continues to amaze and captivate viewers as he sets the standard for Contemporary Realism. The piece entitled ‘Two Self Portraits’ (2002-2003), represents his contemporary self in the foreground overshadowing a crouching version of his child-self.

A traveling exhibition of the artist’s paintings and drawings is set to be circulated throughout the United States in 2007, hosted by The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. While the subjects on the canvas change with the passing years, the focus remains the same: the artist’s ability to convey the human experience while keeping the viewer speculating.

Movements associated with Sidney Goodman:
American artists, Contemporary realism


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