The inspiration for James Morton's paintings lie with the grand tradition of figure painting of the 16th and 17th centuries as seen especially in the works of Titian, Bronzino, Caravaggio, Rubens,
Rembrandt, and Velasquez. Morton has researched the oil painting methods and materials of these masters through close observation of paintings in museums, the study of early writings on painting
technique, and experimentation. He has found that a few elementary, but largely forgotten principles of painting technique underlie the effects which these masters obtained, and to a large extent
he believes that he has recovered some of these forgotten principles.
Along with this interest in the painting technique of the masters, has arisen a preoccupation with the female nude as subject. A reading of Kenneth Clark's book The Nude convinced Morton that there was a rich tradition of imagery deriving from Classical Greece that has been largely neglected in our time. This subject had been used in earlier art to express subtle emotions and ideas; this content is universal and still viable, he feels.
James Morton was born in Cleveland in 1947. Early in his life his family moved to Zanesville, Ohio. As an undergraduate at Kenyon College and the University of Wisconsin in the late 1960's, Morton studied art history with the intention of training to become a conservator of paintings. As a graduate student, he wrote his thesis on the subject of the interest of 18th and 19th century British, American, and French painters in rediscovering the technical secrets of the 16th century Venetian painters. After receiving an MA degree in art history in 1971, Morton was disappointed to learn that he is color blind; this condition disqualified him from becoming a conservator of painting. But this discovery was ultimately fortunate since it allowed him to fall back on his inclination to become a painter. He transferred his studies to studio art at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received his MFA in 1973. Morton came back to Ohio in 1973, settling in Columbus where he has remained since. and has continued to refine the techniques that he learned in his research.
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