Book Review: The Art of Dahlov Ipcar by Carl Little

The Art of Dahlov Ipcar book cover.jpg

The Art of Dahlov Ipcar. Carl Little. 2010. Published by Down East Books. ISBN: 978-0-892-72809-1

Color. Dynamism. Fantasy. Nature. Complex and vivid visual imagery. These are but some of the words that come to mind when looking at Dahlov Ipcar's vast body of work as painter, illustrator, author. Had Carl Little chosen to write not one word, this book, The Art of Dahlov Ipcar, would be well worth the purchase price for the photographs and prints it contains within.

Left: Cheetah and Bushbuck (2004) by Dahlov Ipcar; Right: Malyasian Jungle (2004) by Dahlov Ipcar

Left: Cheetah and Bushbuck (2004) by Dahlov Ipcar; Right: Malyasian Jungle (2004) by Dahlov Ipcar

Little does provide readers with an insight into Ipcar's life,  starting with a charming introduction detailing a visit to Ipcar's home in which she cooks him breakfast before heading to her studio. Aged 91 at the time, Ipcar seemed humbled by the attention her artwork had received.

"I am amazed that I have been so recognized and appreciated in Maine because I'm just quietly going my own way and I rarely paint Maine subjects." (introduction)

But, it's exactly because Ipcar has gone her own way that her artwork is so delightfully recognizable. She grew up in an artistic family and was exposed at an early age to Cubism, Fauvism, Surrealism, social realism, primitive and folk art. It was color, not any particular school or technique, that got "into her soul" and captured Ipcar's imagination most. (p. 28).

Left: Moon Circle (1989) by Dahlov Ipcar; Right: Adam Naming the Beasts (1965) by Dahlov Ipcar

Left: Moon Circle (1989) by Dahlov Ipcar; Right: Adam Naming the Beasts (1965) by Dahlov Ipcar

Little provides readers with a brief outline of Ipcar's life. The first couple chapters, though informative, seemed a little on the dry side. That may, however, just be me, since I most enjoy learning about artists' processes. The narrative picks up in the third and fourth chapters: Dahlov Ipcar: Animalier  and Illustration and Other Mediums. Here, the reader is let in on some of Ipcar's thoughts about the subjects she chooses ("I can portray animals in action because I see them in my mind's eye, and I don't have to depend on models or photographs" p. 54) and the improvisational qualities of her work ("As you build up, you think 'How's it ever going to all pull together?'" p. 65).

Left: Phasianidae (2000) by Dahlov Ipcar; Festival of Stars (1965) by Dahlov Ipcar; Right: Cats Entwined (1964) by Dahlov Ipcar

Left: Phasianidae (2000) by Dahlov Ipcar; Festival of Stars (1965) by Dahlov Ipcar; Right: Cats Entwined (1964) by Dahlov Ipcar

In the final chapter, The Ongoing Legacy of a Maine Painter, Little outlines the accomplishments of this remarkable artist; the awards she won, her exhibits and shows. At the time of Little's interviews with the artist, she was no longer able to go outside much, but she was still actively painting. The Bangor Daily News article which reported her death in February 2017, indicated she never really stopped, despite some physical complications that come with old age.

"It may seem egotistical, I don't know," she told Little, "but I feel I'll have left something of value for the world to enjoy for as long as it holds up." (p. 115)

Not egotistical at all. She spoke the truth.

So, if you don't already have this book in your collection, I strongly recommend you remedy that as soon as possible.

If you read this book, please let me know what you think!

Cheers!--Janyce