Celebrating the Life and Art of Daniel E. Greene
As a trailblazer of figurative realism and one of the United States’ most accomplished artists, Daniel E. Greene is truly a master of his craft. From the beginning, the artist has vowed to create work distinct from the work of his peers — to make art that is truly original. And, for several decades Greene has accomplished just that.
Below are some of Greene’s iconic portraits featured in his book, Daniel E. Greene: Studios and Subways. From the movers and shakers of his day — including Ayn Rand, Eleanor Roosevelt and astronaut commander Walter M. Schirra Jr. — to art students and passersby, these portraits almost effortlessly portray the expressions, moods and personalities of their subjects in such a skillful way only a true master could capture. “As each country’s language reveals its culture, particularly the structure of relationships, a nation’s attitudes toward portraiture reveal what it values and how it interprets the past,” states Maureen Bloomfield, art critic and co-author of Greene’s new book. The vast ways portraits are important to specific cultures throughout history are clearly not lost on Greene. And some of his portraitures almost offer a tiny time capsule to the trends and styles of decades past, such as Mary Ann and Mark with Cap. We hope you love this roundup of this artistic pioneer’s awe-inspiring portraits as much as we do.
The Power of Portraits
Pictured above is Greene painting astronaut commander, Walter M. at his studio in Greenwich Village, New York City, in 1963.
It’s important to note Shirra’s expression in the actual photograph and how expertly Greene was able to portray this strong gaze in the portrait. I also love the attention to detail in Schirra’s uniform.
The subject of this portrait, Wendell Niles Jr., is the son of famous radio announcer for “The Bob Hope Show” and ” The Milton Berle Show,” Wendell Niles. He was in the Publicity Recruiting Center on Governors Island with Greene during his stint in the army. “The Army’s Publicity Recruiting Center was home to actors, singers [and] announcers,” recalls Greene in the book. “It was considered the Army’s art department.”
This portrait is of Greene’s first wife, Mary Ann, who was an aspiring opera singer. The artist met her while she was performing at a club in Greenwich Village.
Greene, by his own admission, is no stranger to the night and pool halls. The subject of this portrait, “Spin the Ball Kelly,” was certainly a character and a little bit of a hustler, too, who used his hand instead of a cue.
While still in the army, Greene started this striking portrait of Ayn Rand. He finished this piece at his 31st Street studio, which is deemed an “artist’s studio” by virtue of its north skylight — through which you can see the top of the Empire State Building, a view very much enjoyed by Rand.
In response to a request made by McCall’s, which was a monthly American women’s magazine, Greene referenced photos of Eleanor Roosevelt to paint this artwork overnight. Mrs. Roosevelt has been captured as the subject for more than one of Greene’s portraits. In fact, the artist has admired her since he was a child.
The biggest house in Washington, D.C., even recognized Greene’s love for Eleanor Roosevelt. Here, the artist is pictured presenting his pastel painting, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, to the then First Lady Hillary Clinton at the White House on May 26, 1994.
Always interested in painting what was around him, Greene was drawn to the clothing styles of the 1960s and 70s. He would often paint his art students in whatever they were wearing as they would walk through the door. In this portrait, you truly get a sense of the style during this era.
In this portrait of then editor-in-chief of Hearst Corporation, John Mack Carter, you can’t help but wonder what the subject is thinking. Maybe he’s contemplating big decisions to come. The oil painting captures so many minute details, it almost leaves you questioning if it is indeed a painting or, perhaps, really a photograph.
The Pastel Society of America named Richard Pionk (1936-2007) a Master Pastellist in 1984. He was a monitor for Greene’s class at the Art Students League and later went on to become the president of the Salmagundi Club.
Want More from Daniel Greene?
Did you enjoy this roundup? Be sure to check out Daniel E. Greene: Studios and Subways, which features more than 200 of Greene’s best oil paintings and pastels, from the underworlds of pool halls, carnivals and New York subways to classically posed nudes and the elite culture of auction houses. What is equally as impressive is the inside look into Greene’s personal journey from his early days in Cincinnati, Ohio, to now. This book is a “definitive study of this legendary artist, full of insight and inspiration for artists and art lovers alike.” Enjoy!