Image: Circus Family
(Berlin, Germany, 1934 - 1993, New York, New York)

Circus Family , 1969

Oil on canvas
96 in. x 77 3/4 in. (243.84 cm x 197.49 cm)
Gift of Lorraine Dean and Gregory Dean
Self-taught as a painter, Peter Dean participated in the mainstream art world but always remained somewhat on its fringes. Working in New York City in the 1960s, his figurative social satires took a different direction than the minimalist aesthetic that dominated the attention of many artists. In 'Circus Family,' Dean creates a surreal painting within a painting. Performers, including a haunting skeletal figure, swing on a trapeze over circus tents within a painted frame. Meanwhile, a serene family of clowns appears to have escaped the frame’s confines. Dean, who often included autobiographical elements in his work, used two artist friends and their son as models for the clown family. The mask dangling from the right hand of the male clown is a self-portrait.
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