Richard Bosman

Falling Man

published 1984

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Not on display

Richard Bosman born 1944
Woodcut on paper
Image: 1448 × 1068 mm
Purchased 1986

Catalogue entry

Richard Bosman born 1944

P77135 Falling Man 1983, pub. 1984

Woodcut 1448 x 1068 (57 x 42) on Japanese rice paper 1557 x 1068 (61 1/4 x 41 7/8); printed by John Stemmer and Will Foo at Experimental Workshop, San Francisco in an edition of 32 and published by Experimental Workshop
Inscribed ‘Bosman' below image b.r. and ‘17/32' below image b.l.
Purchased from Blond Fine Art (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Lit: ‘Richard Bosman "Falling Man" (Black and White) "Falling Man" (Colour) 1984', Print Collector's Newsletter, vol.20, July-Aug. 1984, p.103; Gerrit Henry, ‘Richard Bosman, Brooke Alexander', Artnews, vol.84, Jan. 1985, pp.150-1

This entry is based on a letter from the artist dated 19 February 1988 except where otherwise stated.

The artist has printed two versions of this image. One is ‘Falling Man', printed black. The other is ‘The Fall' which is printed black and blue. The outline shape of a boat on the bottom edge of the image suggests that the figure is falling into the sea. Bosman states that the theme of both these prints is related to the first woodcut he made, ‘Man Overboard', which depicts a man falling from the deck of an ocean liner. On this theme Bosman also made an oil painting entitled ‘Fall', which has been sold to a private collector.

The theme of a human being caught in a moment of disaster or complete disorientation is repeated in several of Bosman's oil paintings. ‘Skier' 1986, (repr. Artforum, vol.20, Dec. 1986, p.125), for example, shows a male figure hanging upside-down in the air when taking a tumble on the ski slopes. Such scenes of the literal reversal of an individual have a symbolic significance for the artist. Bosman intends P77135 to be seen as a ‘metaphor or allegory' for the fall of man. At the same time, this imagery recalls the inversion of the human figure found in the work of the German painter Georg Baselitz.

In the late 1970's, after having worked for many years in an abstract expressionist vein, Bosman turned to figuration and began to explore the traditional media of oil paint and woodcuts. Both media have the advantage, he has said, of allowing the artist to make mistakes. ‘When mistakes happen', he has commented, ‘they can be part of the result, in prints and in paintings. I guess that is what people think Expressionism is, a style that lets you use accidents. But it's not mistakes so much as identifying with the audience, making contact. The artist comes through by means of the gesture' (Richard Bosman, interviewed by Carter Ratcliff in ‘Expressionism Today: An Artists' Symposium', Art in America, vol.70, Dec. 1982).

P77135 is the largest woodcut Bosman has made to date. Of it he writes, ‘the expressionistic image seemed well suited to the expressionistic medium of woodcut'. Although aware of the precedents of an expressionistic use of the medium of the woodcut by Gauguin, Munch and Die Brücke artists, Bosman looks to commercial art for his inspiration, in particular, to the exaggerated poses of the figures in the illustrations in American pulp novels and comic books. Interviewed in 1985 he explained: ‘I get an idea from an image in a comic book, and then I paint it in a sort of abstract expressionistic style. I guess that I am interested in those iconographies not for cultural reasons, but because it's like telling a story in a mythological way' (quoted in Antonella Soldaini, ‘Richard Bosman', Flash Art International, no.125, Dec. 1985-Jan. 1986, p.36). The artist has confirmed that the image of ‘Falling Man' was culled from the cover of a popular novel but can no longer identify which of the many such novels he has read and collected it was. Bosman always alters his source in some way in order to make his imagery more personal. About his use of sources he has commented, ‘of course I try to change the story around ... The idea, I would hope, is to come through to the audience, to make contact' (interview with Carter Ratcliff, 1982, p.60).

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.318-9

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