Exhibits: ‘Philip C. Curtis – Landscapes of Arizona’ (Phoenix Art Museum)

Philip C. Curtis saw the desert through a lens of magic realism.

Landscape remains one of the most popular subjects for artists visiting and residing in Arizona. Philip C. Curtis, while not known as a landscape painter, draws extensively on that subject. Curtis came to the state in 1937 to establish the Phoenix Federal Art Center under the Federal Art Project, a New Deal program. He left two years later to head a similar facility in Des Moines, Iowa, but returned to Arizona in 1947.

Settling in Scottsdale, he painted surreal compositions, with figures in Victorian costumes set in the desert. Arizona’s landscapes were a rich source of inspiration for him, and while his canvases do not portray any recognizable geological features, his work may be contextualized within the work of a broad spectrum of artists who came to the state. Curtis saw the desert through a lens of magic realism. This differed from Maxfield Parrish, Eugene Berman, and other artists who preferred more representational modes.

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