by Len Lear
Paul DuSold, 54, who has been called “The Rembrandt of Mt. Airy,” a Mt. Airy resident for 25 years and instructor at Woodmere Art Museum for 20 years, currently has an exhibit of his works through Feb. 24 at the prestigious Gross McCleaf Gallery, 127 S. 16th St.
Edmund Bacon, the late former Philadelphia city planner who sat for a DuSold portrait (he was also the father of movie actor Kevin Bacon), told me many years ago, “Paul DuSold has a marvelously broad perspective … He is rediscovering the essence of what made art great in ages past. His paintings will last long after many things that go by the name of art today have blown away.”
Although the “Rembrandt” moniker refers to DuSold’s magnificent portraits, this is the first time in DuSold’s several exhibitions at the Gross McCleaf Gallery that he has shown landscapes.
“In that sense this exhibit is very different for me,” the Woodmere instructor told us last week. “I have been focusing on landscape more over the past couple years or so. Landscape and more specifically, cityscape, was a subject that I had long wanted to paint.
“I used to ride the Chestnut Hill West line into center city and be enthralled with all of the tremendous possibilities for paintings I would see from the ‘rooftop’ vantage of the train line. I was visually fascinated by the textures and spaces of the buildings and vacant lots and the effect of time so clearly manifest.”
Why has DuSold been drifting away from portraits? “Not for any reason particularly,” he said. “I guess I’m just in a landscape phase of my career.”
While DuSold obviously places great emphasis on his painting, the teaching has a very immediate, direct impact on the lives of his students and on him. “This has caused me to reflect on the importance of interpersonal relations in our lives and how we ‘compose’ our lives, as opposed to thinking my most important contribution to my community was the painting.”
DuSold’s commissioned portraits of VIPs can be seen on the walls of many of the area’s major institutions, such as the Franklin Institute, Jefferson Medical School, Graduate Hospital, Mellon Bank, the Union League of Philadelphia, the American College of Physicians, Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co., Pennsylvania Hospital, Wyoming Seminary and many others.
DuSold’s studio is in his house, just up the street from Carpenter Woods, where he and his wife, Sharon, live with their daughter, Olivia, who is in her senior year at Haverford College and plans to apply to medical school. Sharon teaches piano, and DuSold’s sister, Michelle, and her husband, Frederic, and their three children live nearby on West Johnson Street.
(DuSold used to get his exercise by bicycling downtown to work before his home studio was created.)
DuSold, who graduated from the Penna. Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in 1985, was particularly inspired by one teacher there, Arthur DeCosta, who died in 2004. “I learned virtually all I knew about painting from pestering Arthur,” DuSold recalled. “He told me in my second year at PAFA to go to the members of the faculty and ‘pick their brains.’ I thought to myself, ‘Arthur, you’re the one who knows everything I need to know; I’m going to pick YOUR brain.’
“And so I did. I asked him every question I could think of. Sometimes even when I knew the answer to the question, I would ask it just to see how he would consider the question from some unexpected angle. It was the greatest of learning experiences!”
DuSold is very grateful that he has been able to live as an artist. “When I look back to my childhood, I realize that this kind of contemplative life, focused on the art form of painting, is what I always wanted, even before I knew I wanted it.
“I have been therefore extraordinarily fortunate to have had parents who were fully supportive of my studying painting. I was shocked when I went to PAFA and met other students who told me their parents were not at all supportive. I thought everybody’s parents supported their kids’ interests because mine always had.
“What the life of the artist lacks in terms of financial security, it more than makes up for in personal expression and freedom. My wife has quoted Dr. Dan Gottlieb, saying, ‘The need to be loved is equaled by the need to be known.’ I think this is very true. We all want to be known, recognized. Artistic expression provides that.
“I’m sure you know the Joseph Campbell line, ‘Follow your bliss.’ It has definitely worked for me. I had grand ambitions as an 18-year-old art student of being a historically important American artist. Now, I’m happy with my much more modest results.”
For more information about DuSold’s current exhibit, call 215-665-8138 or visit www.pauldusold.com.