Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1935, American artist Jim Dine studied at the University of Cincinnati and the Boston Museum School, and earned a BFA in 1957 from Ohio University. He then moved to New York and befriended like thinkers such as Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and Roy Lichtenstein. In 1962, Dine’s work was included in the groundbreaking and influential exhibition New Painting and Common Objects at the Norton Simon Museum; the show also included Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Thiebaud. He turned to sculpture in the early 1980s, when he created works based on the ancient sculpture Venus de Milo.
Double Silver-Point Robes is one of many robe paintings by Dine. The artist produced many series of works focused on familiar and personally significant objects such as tools, robes, and hearts. Dine’s robe paintings were first shown at Sidney Janis gallery in the fall of 1964 – this is one such example – and are among the most recognizable images to have emerged from his long and illustrious career. The robes represent the male counterpart of his Venus, the maternal figure and symbol of fertility, and seek to realize an identity, both personal and existential—in fact Dine identified many of the robe paintings as “self-portraits,” because he visualized them as an extension of himself. This piece features two canvases, each with a man’s robe detailed in lightly etched lines. Each has a block of wood in place of the figure’s head. A knife protrudes from one block, and attached to the knife is a plumb line, which adds an element of motion to the piece.
While Double Silver-Point Robes is an example of one of the earliest iterations of the robe series, the following is an example of one of the most recent. Night and Martha Broderick was painted in 2005, and the figure of the robe is far more prominent here. This is a far more colorful piece as well, with the pattern of the robe varying throughout. There are green and red spots on one side, black stripes on the opposite sleeve. Purple fades into red, to green, then to yellow, each shift seeming to flow organically with the shadows. The belt of the robe is initially sharply defined, tied in the front, but then deteriorates into long drips of paint sliding down to the bottom of the canvas. These two robes paired together show Dine’s development as an artist over the span of 53 years, both exemplary of his work, and yet so different from each other.