Woman and Colored Rocks, 2004
Acrylic On Canvas
32 x 23 inches
Roland Petersen (born 1926) is a Bay Area painter whose paintings from the 1950s and ’60s are masterful syntheses of gestural abstract expressionism, painterly realism, and advanced color theory. Petersen has had an amazing career spanning seven decades as a painter and professor of art at UC Davis. While a member of the renowned UC Davis art faculty, 1956-1992, he was surrounded by such luminaries as Wayne Thiebaud, Manuel Neri, Robert Arneson and William Wiley. Petersen’s signature style of bright color, perspective, and still life began with his picnic series in the early 60’s.
Petersen’s work integrates still life, figures, and landscape into complex, architectonic compositions that are beautiful and enigmatic, but still retain a strong sense of place, in this case the fields and farms of California’s Central Valley. According to curator Bruce Guenther, Petersen’s paintings are “shatteringly still and exude an irrevocable solidity that is both timeless and yet locked in a specifically transitory milieu.”
In his early works, Petersen merges pure abstraction and formal analyses of color and space with figurative and landscape elements, a reflection of his interest in post-Impressionist geometry, specifically as practiced by Paul Cézanne and Georges Seurat. Petersen’s extraordinarily sophisticated palette, a striking and brilliant combination of light and dark hues that uses white “as an editing tool … to control the eye’s journey of discovery,” is informed not only by the color theories of Georges Seurat and Hans Hofmann but also by the emotional expressionism of Vincent Van Gogh, as well as the French symbolists.
Petersen is listed as one of the Bay Area Figurative School artists who flourished in the mid 20th century from the late 1940’s until the early 1970’s. These painters were noted for their departure from pure abstract expressionism to return to figuration. His works have been exhibited throughout the U.S. and can be found in museum collections including New York MOMA, The Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y. , San Francisco MOMA among others.