Kathleen Morris

Kathleen Morris

(1893 - 1986)


Kathleen Morris was a self-taught painter. At the age of 29, returning from a one-year stay in Italy, she began working larger and almost exclusively in oil to express the almost hallucinatory impressions of space and time that Europe had left upon her memory. Her figurative work deals with a rich and developed symbolic language of the psyche. Working in the style of the Old Masters, Morris combines realism and abstract expressionism to create narratives where characters are caught up in both the complexity of human existence and the materiality of paint itself. Oil, wax and gold leaf are used to build up texture, luminosity and presence in her allegorical masterworks.


The most compelling aspect of Kathleen Morris's paintings is the way they plumb the emotional depths, which is inseparable from their sensual beauty. The convergence of spirituality and sensuality - sensualized spirituality, spiritualized sensuality -  is the mystery that Morris's paintings evoke. They do so in part through their surface-dense, heavily-varnished quality, holding light in their enigmatic depths in a manner worthy of the old masters - and in part through their rendering of the human self-image, as it has been called. Indeed, her faces suggest simultaneously the heights of consciousness to which the human spirit can rise and the depths of suffering to which it can sink. Her fantasies - dream pictures - convey the strangeness and horror of being human, particularly for a woman. 


Many of Morris' women seem on the verge of going mad, as though their own beauty and desirability had distracted them from the possibilities of identity. The few men Morris depicts seem like lost souls. Yet the rich atmosphere of each work seems to place the figure on a higher plane of existence, redeeming it. Figures becomes transcendental by virtue of the atmospheric space in which they are located.


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