b. New York, NY, 1890–d. Santa Barbara, CA, 1974
Claude Buck was born in New York City on July 3, 1890. His father was a traditionally trained, commercial artist, and introduced Buck to drawing at age 4. The young Buck copied Greek classics at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and at age 14 entered the National Academy of Design, taking classes in still life with Emil Carlsen, figure drawing with Francis Jones, and figure painting George DeForest Brush. He studied there until age 22, receiving eight prizes. Buck then studied in Munich and upon his return began a busy schedule of exhibitions.
He moved to Chicago in 1919, teaching painting for some years at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (SAIC), and becoming a leading member of an avant-garde symbolist artists’ group known as the Introspectives. The group, whose members shared an approach to expressing subjective emotion and experience in their work, included, both Rudolph Weisenborn and Emil Armin. Buck, a modernist, was influenced by writers Edgar Allen Poe and William Blake and eccentric visionary painters Ralph Blakelock and Albert Pinkham Ryder. He often depicted allegories and literary themes drawn from Romantic sources such as Poe’s poetry, operas by Richard Wagner, as well as classical mythology and the New Testament. He made highly finished still lifes and “hyperrealistic” portraits to support himself and his family. Buck spent the last years of his life in Santa Cruz, and is often considered a California artist despite his deep connections to Chicago.
Labor, completed some time in the 1920s, depicts idealized nudes, and focuses on a woman with two children at left. The woman’s head is haloed by the sun, and her personification of motherhood and fecundity is emphasized by the boy’s bowl of fruit. In the background, a man urges an ox up a hill and other muscled men recline or stand in classical poses. The heavily worked, glowing surface, with its layering of transparent glazes in the manner of old master paintings, well exemplifies Buck’s symbolist paintings.
Buck, Claude. Pamphlet file P03792. Ryerson Library. Art Institute of Chicago.
Greenhouse, Wendy. “Claude Buck.” In Chicago Modern, 1893–1945: Pursuit of the New, edited by Elizabeth Kennedy, 97. Chicago: Terra Museum of American Art, 2004.
Kock-Wawra, Fred. “Who Is Claude Buck?” All Arts 2, no. 10 (October 1926). From the Ryerson Library Pamphlet file P03792. Art Institute of Chicago.
“The Allegorical Paintings of Charles Claude Buck.” Thurber Art Galleries, Chicago, April 5–May 2, 1920; exhibition brochure.
Artist image: Photograph of Claude Buck, collection of Bernard Friedman.