Saturday, July 7, 2012

Deane G. Keller, master draftsman

Deane G. Keller, undated photo
written by Allana Benham

During our study at the New York Academy, Eric Mannella and I were fortunate to study figure drawing and anatomical drawing with Deane G. Keller (American, 1940-2005). He was a generous instructor who enriched the lives and artistic practice of thousands of students at the New York Academy, the Lyme Academy, the Art Student's League of New York, and the Woodstock Academy.

Deane learned the art (and craft) of drawing from many sources. Most influential was his father, Deane Keller Sr., a highly regarded Captain in the American Army during World War II, Professor of Drawing at Yale University, and acclaimed portrait painter for Yale University. While stationed in Italy, Keller Sr. was part of the legendary Monuments Men. He was responsible for the rescue and conservation of important Renaissance works, including treasures in the Uffizi and a major equestrian bronze of Cosimo I by Giambologna, protecting them from the ravages of war. Keller Sr. recieved his artistic training from George Bridgman, the pre-eminent anatomical instructor at the Art Student's League, who had studied under Boulanger and Gérôme at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Bridgman's books on figure drawing and artistic anatomy have become some of the most influential texts in the field published in the 20th century. Through his teachers, Deane G. Keller's artistic lineage can be traced directly to Louis Boullogne I (1609-1674), one of the 14 original founders of the French Academy.

Deane G. Keller also studied at the Atelier of Nera Simi in Florence.

Deane would require every student to hand in a drawing from the week, which he rolled up and took home. Before the next class, Deane would redraw a new version of each student's drawing, offering a visual critique. He gave us these drawings in 2001 and 2002.

Deane was a rare instructor who matched a fluid, natural drawing style with concise verbal description to convey his ideas in a very direct manner. He placed great importance on demonstrating the act of drawing, with its struggles, revisions, and evolution from first sketch to eventual finish. He was capable of inventing the figure from his imagination to convey profound human emotions. His great anatomical knowledge was always at the service of the emotional communication of his work.

Finally, Deane was profoundly gifted, patient, and engaged as an educator; many of our peers did some of their best work in his class. We learned much about the art of teaching while we were privileged to study with him. In the year before Deane passed away, he compiled a book on figure drawing from his many years of experience as an artist and instructor. You can order it from the Lyme Academy.

Although we did not know it at the time, our class was the last that Deane taught at the New York Academy before he passed away. We hope this site will serve as a resource for future students to learn from his great experience.

1 comment:

Y Breton said...

Eric, Allana,
These documents you published on Keller and Julian & al. How very generous of you. Thank you very much. These documents are very rare and were impossible to find on the net.
Have a great spring.
Your admirer Yvan in Quebec.