Painting around Mount Zion

Jim Dine

(Cincinnati, Ohio, 1935 - )


Oil on canvas

71 in. x 173 in. (180.34 cm x 439.42 cm)

Purchased with funds from an anonymous contribution and the Museum Acquisition Fund

1983.2 a,b

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In a 'New York Times' advertisement, Dine came across a photograph of a man’s bathrobe with the human model airbrushed out. This image inspired him to create a number of robe paintings during the mid-1960s. The robe is frequently identified as a stand-in for the artist, a symbol of masculinity and a generalized self portrait. 'Painting around Mount Zion', one of few robe pictures created during the late 1970s, was produced during a three-month sojourn in Jerusalem. The location of Dine’s studio near Mount Zion gave rise to the painting’s title. The artist was enchanted by the intensity of the sunlight in the Middle East, which is reflected in the painting’s saturated color. Despite the absence of human figures, the robes serve as potent vehicles for emotional energy.


Jim Dine Painting Around Mount Zion, 1979 Collection of the Akron Art Museum Jim Dine's rise from youthful midwestern art student to internationally celebrated artist was meteoric. Raised and educated in Ohio, Dine remembers with fondness his first visits to the Cincinnati Art Museum as well as the evening art classes he attended as a teenager at the neighboring Art Academy of Cincinnati. He began college at the University of Cincinnati but transferred to Ohio University in Athens, where he was awarded a B.F.A. in 1957. Moving to New York in 1958, Dine became the youngest among a handful of brash upstarts who would steal the art world's spotlight from the Abstract Expressionists in the early 1960s. What Dine shared with these Pop Art stars—notably Claes Oldenburg (see pp. 184–85), Tom Wesselman, Andy Warhol (see pp. 148–49), and Roy Lichtenstein—was a healthy disregard for the separation between so-called high and low subject matter and a desire to blur the boundaries between art and nonart forms. The Pop mandate was to create art reflective of everyday modern life. Domestic objects, references from popular culture, and modern advertising were embraced and utilized. Over the years Dine has repeatedly used a variety of media to focus on a few familiar motifs, including a heart, a gate, a tree, Venus de Milo, numerous tools, and a man's robe. Dine created his first robe painting in 1964. Like all of his subjects, the robe was found rather than invented. In an advertisement in the New York Times, Dine came across a photograph of a man's bathrobe with the human model airbrushed out. With this as his starting point, he created a number of robe pictures during the mid-1960s. The robe was immediately identified as a stand-in for the artist, a symbol of masculinity as well as a generalized self-portrait. Multiple robes, as in the Akron painting, provide the artist with additional opportunities to explore the image's communicative power, thereby increasing, in this case fourfold, the intense presence of the male icon. Dine has frequently used the robe and other images in multipaneled works in which an image is repeated or seen as part of a sequence of related images. Through focused repetition comes variation: no two images are alike, despite their thematic consistency. This theme-and-variation approach characterizes Dine’s art making. In the late 1970s a change occurred. Leaving behind Pop's cool reserve and aloofness, Dine turned up the emotional heat in order to exploit the expressive power of his imagery. Simultaneously he fine-tuned his draftsmanship and explored the painterly gesture more enthusiastically, even if always within the context of representation. With these aesthetic shifts in place, the artist returned to making robe pictures after a hiatus of several years. Painting around Mount Zion, one of a small number of robe pictures created during the late 1970s, was produced during a three-month sojourn in Jerusalem. Dine's studio there was in a neighborhood known as Yemin Moshe; its proximity to Mount Zion gave rise to this painting's title. The artist was enchanted by the Middle Eastern light, even though its intensity was so great that he had to whitewash the windows of his studio in order to work in it. The Jerusalem robes radiate with the brilliance of the local sunlight. In Painting around Mount Zion, four large figures loom out at the viewer, their strident stance seen against a flood of saturated color. These robes serve so potently as receptacles and vehicles for emotional energy, it is easy to see why the late 1970s robe paintings are considered to be among the artist's most expressive and most successful works. - Jean E. Feinberg, 2001 Beal, Graham W. J. Jim Dine: Five Themes. With contributions by Robert Creeley, Jim Dine, and Martin Freidman. New York and Minneapolis: Abbeville and Walker Art Center, 1984. Feinberg, Jean E. Jim Dine. New York: Abbeville, 1995. Glenn, Constance W. Jim Dine Drawings. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1985.

Contemporary Art
Self portraits