- Larry Rivers
- French Money
- signed; signed, titled and dated 62 on reverse
- oil on canvas
- 17 7/8 by 32 in. 45.4 by 102.9 cm.
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" I did so many French Moneys that they kept showing up all over the place. I like them. I always liked this series...I was able to repeat these subjects without getting tired of them. I look back on them as great years. "
Larry Rivers quoted in Drawings and Digressions, New York, 1979, p. 151 (edited by Carol Brightman).
French Money exemplifies Larry Rivers' pivotal and ambitious placement between two of the 20th Century's most important movement's, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. The former aesthetic vein was a natural one, as River's painting career began in the late 40's under the tutelage of Hans Hofmann. His sensual painterly manner departed from his teacher however, as Rivers favored the voluptuous brushstrokes of Willem de Kooning. The latter Pop trajectory would later materialize through the use of mass produced imagery reflecting at once the stylistic moorings of the New York art scene and the world at large.
By the early 1960s, Rivers' style employed a technical assurance and fluency, adapting gestural paintings to a figurative end. The subject of the present work was inspired after a 1950 trip to Europe which exposed Rivers to the French and Italian masters. Rivers' fascination with the Neoclassical works provided the basis for what would become one of his most important series of an the eponymous title, French Money. Sharing dual significance with the subject was the very recycling of popular imagery and tangible currency, as if quoted directly from the canon of Pop aesthetics. Whereas Warhol's Dollar Bills or Dollar Signs, were directly appropriated from their subject matter, River's French Money gently dissolves the literal representation of the subject matter with a deliberately evasive handling that is Abstract Expressionist in both composition and color.