SCOTT KAHN (B. 1946)
SCOTT KAHN (B. 1946)

Winter Morning

SCOTT KAHN (B. 1946)
Winter Morning
signed and dated ‘Scott Kahn ‘92’ (lower right); signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'WINTER MORNING KAHN 1992 ©1992 by Scott Kahn' (on the overlap)
oil on linen
30 x 32in. (76.2 x 81.3cm.)
Painted in 1992
Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
K. Tomlinson (ed.), Reader's Digest, December 1993 (illustrated in colour on the back cover).

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1992, Scott Kahn’s frosty landscape heralds the first jubilant light of morning. Rising from behind a faraway woodland, the low, pendulous sun bathes the scene with a brilliant pale lustre. Trees stand bare and exposed to the winter chill, bristling with spectral drama. Their tangled branches cast long shadows onto the snow and seem to creep across the painting’s surface like tracery. Though devoid of human presence, except for a discreet stone boundary wall to the left of the canvas, the landscape teems with life. Deeply inspired by his natural surroundings, the present painting is one from a number of works executed while Kahn was residing at a patron’s home in Chester, Connecticut. Featuring soft rolling hills, thick fleecy clouds and bewitching winter trees, the Massachusetts-born artist evokes the familiar New England countryside. Recently achieving explosive, global success in the art market at the age of seventy, Kahn is widely known for his figurative, Magic Realist style. Conjuring distinctly atmospheric landscapes, still lifes, portraits and interiors, he draws not only from direct observation, but from recollected memory, dreams, and imagination.

Born in 1947, Kahn received his BFA from University of Pennsylvania and MFA from Rutgers University. The artist spent his early career with a focus on abstraction. Studying under Theodoros Stamos at the Art Students League, New York in 1968, Kahn encountered first-generation Abstract Expressionists such as Mark Rothko. However, it was his move to Sag Harbor, Long Island, which inspired his shift to the figurative, kick-starting the unique pictorial style which has defined his work for the last five decades: ‘There I began to paint from life … This was my true education’ (S. Kahn quoted in ‘Artist Spotlight: Scott Kahn’, Bridgeman Images, 7 December 2021, online). Capturing the minutiae of his surroundings, from each fluttering leaf and spindly branch to the height of the sun, quality of light and effects of each changing season, Kahn’s surfaces are rich with obsessive detail. Oil paint is applied in meticulous stipples and spots of colour—a spontaneous and atmospheric expression that owes much to the technical innovations of Impressionism and Pointillism. While he admires the work of Degas and Bonnard, it is van Gogh whose influence is most palpable in Kahn’s practice: ‘When you see one of his paintings, it’s like there is no distance between your soul and the artist’s soul. It’s that straightforward and direct’ (S. Kahn quoted in ‘Interviews we love: Scott Kahn’, RDN Arts, 2 June 2021, online).

Deeply sensorial, perceptive and attuned, Kahn work is, in his own words ‘inspired by my life as I live it’ (S. Kahn quoted in ‘Artist Spotlight: Scott Kahn’, ibid.). Each canvas constitutes a visual record not only of his physical environment, but of an inner mood. Working in this diaristic, autobiographical mode, Kahn constructs worlds that feel hinged in reality yet loose and faraway, as though recollected or imagined. Leitmotifs recur across his paintings, weaving through a thread of familiarity and association. At once we recognise the fluffy, exquisitely modelled clouds, and Kahn’s signature burning sun, rendered so often as a perfect and enigmatic disc that seems to singe through the canvas surface. Often painting scenes from memory and dreams, Kahn’s work speaks to early twentieth-century Surrealist invocations of the uncanny, the ‘familiar made strange’. Wanting to create work that ‘suggests something beyond what is actually being seen’, Kahn’s paintings can be defined by an atmosphere that is at once mesmeric and disquieting, real and imagined.

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