Stephen Greene

The Return


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Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1318 x 838 mm
frame: 1488 x 1001 x 81 mm
Presented by R. Kirk Askew, Jnr through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962

Catalogue entry

Stephen Greene born 1918

T00526 The Return 1950

Inscribed 'Greene' b.r.
Oil on canvas, 51 7/8 x 33 (132 x 83.5)
Presented by R. Kirk Askew, Jr., through the American Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962
Prov: R. Kirk Askew, Jr., New York, Director of Durlacher Bros. (purchased from the artist)
Exh: American Painting Today - 1950, Metropolitan Museum, New York, December 1950-February 1951 (works not numbered); 1951 Annual Exhibition: Contemporary Painting in the United States, Los Angeles County Museum, June-July 1951 (57, repr.); Stephen Greene, Durlacher Bros., New York, February-March 1952 (3); Stephen Greene, de Cordova and Dana Museum, Lincoln, Mass., May-June 1953 (13)
Repr: The Friends of the Tate Gallery: Annual Report 1st May 1962-30th April 1963 (London 1963), facing p.13

Stephen Greene writes of this work (7 September 1976): 'It is an autobiographical painting and that is rare for me, I usually hope to use autobiographical information to make something else, something more public. I called the painting THE RETURN as it had to do with my return from Rome the fall of 1949 where I had been close to death due to a serious illness and as a result had to be flown back to the States. The man in the painting is my father, the woman, my mother. The bandages, I had hoped, as well as the maimed limbs, signify a psychological state rather than a physical one. The two forms, one on the left, the other on the right are not "doors". They were forms I used from screens I had in my studio but more to the fact is that they are uprights and the picture is put together somewhat like a crucifixion, which often has the three uprights (crosses). As much as have been the formal changes in my work, my basic subject matter is always the crucifixion, not so much in the Christian sense but in the humanistic one divorced from religion. ... The upright, the "stick", is actually meant to be a candle. I do recall that when my mother came to Rome where I was hospitalized, the priests were outside my door, candles in hand, praying for me. I do think of candles, however, in this respect, as symbolizing "mourning". The realism of the parental figures was rare for me, except for that short period around the year 1950. It coexists with a family portrait of the same period which is in the Detroit Institute of Arts.'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.338-9, reproduced p.338