GIRARD PAINTING "RIMA" HITS MARKET

Master of Mud (aka artist) and former Center for Creative Studies (CCS), Detroit,  professor of art, Bill (William J.) Girard Jr., passed away in 2011. The website created to honor him is found at https://girardsvasari.com/

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Previously unreported Girard painting hits art market - and sells!

RIMA, signed and dated Girard 1995, recently turned up in an online search courtesy of 1stDibs.com. Her past is a mystery. (RIMA doesn't seem to have been part of the Allen Abramson estate collection.) But her current status looks good as a happy Girard collector has reported reeling her in!

 


According to the the website:

In "Rima" Girard has captured a beautiful red-headed female in a dreamy pose of closed-eyed contemplation. The figure appears to be completely self-absorbed without being closed-off to interior monologue and the decorative element about her head suggests the intensity of those thoughts. The green vine that drapes her shoulders harkens to garden, earth and spirituality which is reminiscent of the vivid intensity of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Girard was a Detroit figurative painter and teacher at College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan where he taught for 30 years.... 

Girard may be one of the greatest unknown artists from the metro Detroit area. Bill eschewed galleries, but was collected by aficionados, friends, former students and art enthusiasts. Some of this work is not going to auction houses and Girard is becoming more widely known. During his lifetime, Bill held to a style that was clearly archaic along with being inspired by myth and fantasy.

I approve the enthusiasm. I'm not fond of the assertion that Bill Girard's style "was clearly archaic." But hey, I'm virtually an antique myself, so perhaps my perspective is skewed. View the girardsvasari.com website and draw your own conclusion.

Come to think of it, given that "modern art" propagated by Picasso, Matisse and the German Expressionists was firmly rooted in African and Pacific-island art-making traditions then held to be "primitive," calling Girard's work "archaic" would seem an inversion. Lord knows the Pre-Raphaelites - whose influence on the painting is referenced - aren't generally described as archaic.

That Girard looked to myth and literature for the themes of his work is clear from his oeuvre. In this case, I suspect the source of the image is an early 20th century novel, Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest by W.H. Hudson. The heroine of the novel is "Rima the Jungle Girl," a young, mystical being ("the child goddess of nature"), whose first language is akin to birdsong.
Apparently, central themes of the novel are:

  • the ongoing depredations targeting rare, foreign and the precious elements of the natural world, of which Rima is one, and...
  • the violent, tribal nature of indigenous (human?) communities

According to Wikipedia's article, "Hudson based Rima on a South American legend about a lost tribe of white people who lived in the mountains."

In 1959, the book became a movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins. Later, various comic books based on Rima appeared. Which of these sources Girard was aware of I can't say. It does seem likely that Bill would have at least heard of the movie, as it appeared when he was 19. However, the tragic ending envisioned in the novel is turned into a happy Hollywood ending in the movie. The movie flopped.

Let's not overlook a possible art historical point of reference. The American-born sculptor, (Sir) Jacob Epstein, based in London, England, won the commission for and created a well-known (and controversial) memorial to Hudson, featuring Rima, for London's Hyde Park (1923 -1925).

Bill and I discussed Epstein in 1982, the year I left Detroit. I had volunteered to transport an Epstein marble bust for a good friend on my way to Arizona. Bill might well have been aware of Epstein's sculpture, which at the time of its unveiling generated furious controversy.

Like many of Girard's female figures, and his ex-, Bonnie Silver, RIMA has curly red hair. 

Where 1stDibs.com sees a form of internal reverie in RIMA, I see an innocent adolescent... one unaware of, or unwilling to acknowledge, the tragic fate that awaits much that is rare, mysterious and beautiful at the hands of angry, fearful and insensitive contemporaries.

At some level, one could argue that RIMA represents the artist. For by 1994, he was being targeted by his department chair as a misfit and non-conformist ("To my knowledge he has no professional life as an artist..." Fine Arts Department Chair, Aris Koutroulis.) Three years later, the school he had taught at for 30 years would elect not to renew his contract, an act akin to professional homicide.
 

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By Glenn Scott Michaels.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2021.
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Master of Mud (aka artist) and former Center for Creative Studies (CCS), Detroit,  professor of art, Bill (William J.) Girard Jr., passed away in 2011. The website created to honor him is found at https://girardsvasari.com/

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