Vincent Desiderio

Vincent Desiderio Soaking oil on linen 71.5 x 78.5 inches 2005 

Vincent Desiderio The Bath oil on linen  2009

Vincent Desiderio's (1955-) technique, intellect and stamina are all on a grand scale. Desiderio's paintings dig deep, and I freely admit that his profundity often seems too deep for me. Once a friend lent me the book Vincent Desiderio: Paintings 1975-2005, which has an extensive interview as well as gobs of high quality reproductions. I stoically plodded my way through his lengthy explanations about the process and meaning of his work, but ended up thinking that it's all a bit too heavy for me. 

Yet heaviness of meaning in art is neither good nor bad. The important thing is for an artist to be true to themselves, to make work that satisfies an inner longing. 

As for Desiderio's use of visual references to centuries of art history, it's a matter of taste. Some may love this, while others might think that intellect should not clutter things up overmuch. Think of the earthy power of the accessible poetry of William Carlos Williams, and compare that with T.S. Eliot's highly intellectual style:

Danse Russe
William Carlos Williams

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades—

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

The Wasteland (excerpt)
T.S. Eliot

Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie

These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

Which poem do you prefer? And which artist, Vincent Desiderio or Bernard Dunstan?

As far as I’m concerned, what painters do when they work from the work of other painters is they allegorize the method. They take things that are present in the technical narrative of painters that precede them, and they imbue them with an anthropomorphic presence or give it a name or reissue it in a different way, but in doing so they treat that quality or character or set of relationships in a different way. So the allegorization of method for me is the true allegory within paintings.

-Vincent Desiderio

Inspired by Jon Redmond's paintings, the month of November will be dedicated to the theme of "The Nude", particularly in the bath or swimming pool. (I've decided to include swimsuits!) Please email me your suggestion (not your own work please) with a few words to decribe why you like it.


  1. You ask which artist we prefer. Dunstan for me. I just can't get into Desiderio even though I respect him for his ability to express himself. Good for him but way too dark for me.

  2. I agree, Desiderio is extremely too heavy and I often cannot understand his work. I guess it's not meant for me to understand it.


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