John Updike, whose novels explored the virtues and vices of America's small towns and suburbs, earning him two Pulitzer Prizes, died Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at a hospice near his home in Beverly Farms, Mass. He was 76 and had lung cancer. Some readers here may not have known about his wonderful writings on art. Collections of these essays can be found in "Just looking; essays on art" and "Still looking; essays on American art". Both are available at Cleveland Public Library. Read a complete obituary here.
From "Still Looking" here is an excerpt from his 1995 essay, "Hopper's Polluted Silence" regarding an exhibit of painter Edward Hoppers work at the Whitney Museum of American Art that year:
"Hopper's colors turned cooler and chalkier as he aged: the warm brick- and plush-reds of his New York paintings receded. A western painting, People in the Sun (1960), is almost comically unreal - unreal in the Thirties-syle street clothes of the fully garbed sunbathers, unreal in the un-Hopperesque lack of any architectural definition of their porch or platform, unreal in the applique-like strips of generalized desert landscape. It has no atmosphere but psychological atmosphere; the people, dressed for a luncheon party, seem to be on the deck of a boat without a glimpse of water, and, placed all on the left side of the canvas, appear to be sliding toward the sun."
You may not have known that John Updike originally had hoped to be a cartoonist. The portrait above is by illustrator A. Richard Allen.