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David Pratt, Fantastic Landscapes

Twenty-four works from the Burchfield Penney and private collections

On View Friday, February 8–Sunday, July 7, 2019

R. William Doolittle Gallery   

David Foster Pratt (American, 1918-2010) was a Western New York artist, painter, instructor, draftsman and designer. Pratt is known for his landscape and cityscape watercolor and oil paintings, but also works in charcoal, conté and pencil. He has painted throughout the Western New York Area and the United States; in Pennsylvania, Vermont, Maine and Hawaii during his World War II wartime service.

Fantastic Landscapes features 24 works from the Burchfield Penney and private collections. “David’s landscapes and color palette have a fantasy, magical quality. Everything has a twinkle,” said Scott Propeack, Burchfield Penney interim director and chief curator. “Many artists work with traditional perspective; however, in Pratt’s work which reads more top to bottom and flattening much like Marc Chagall.” Critiqued in his time for having too loose a form in comparison to rigid tradition, Chagall preferred to be considered separately from other artists, with imagery and allegory uniquely his own.

“Pratt fits into that greater concern for narrative in his work versus just the independent scene,” said Propeack. “He painted a world alive with spirits and movement, where the laws of perspective are skewed, and solidity dissolves into an ethereal suggestion of mass. Pratt’s visionary paintings are filled with contradictions, simultaneously fanciful and foreboding.” 

Pratt was introduced to art by Carl Bredemeier and classes at the Art Institute of Buffalo. After service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Pratt became a faculty member himself and in 1949 he took on the additional role of director of the Art Institute. In 1950 he convinced Charles Burchfield to become a guest instructor to teach oil and watercolor painting on Saturdays. The tables were turned in 1951 when Pratt attended a painting seminar led by Burchfield at the University of Buffalo. Although their watercolor styles differed radically, Burchfield’s orientation to fantasy in his early and late works was an impetus to Pratt to create an imaginary realm in his own works.

His first solo exhibition was presented at the 20th Century Club in Buffalo in 1940, followed by others held at the Artist’s Committee Gallery in Buffalo in 1981, Norberg’s Art Gallery on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora in 1999, and at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in 1992 and 2006.