|Death Date: November 12, 1990
|Balcomb Greene was born in 1904 in Niagara Falls, New York. Greene was the son of Bettram Greene, a Methodist minister who was a pacifist, socialist, and a descendant of Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene. The future artist was christened John Wesley, for Methodism’s founder, and also became a preacher for a while. While in college he earned ten dollars a sermon from a rural church.
However, he took a different direction entirely, going to Syracuse University and majoring in Philosophy. During his senior year he met Gertrude Glass, a sculptor and daughter of Latvian Jewish refugees. Smitten, they were married in 1926, and went to Vienna where Greene continued his studies in philosophy and attended lectures by Sigmund Freud. After they returned to New York he got a job teaching English at Dartmouth.
Under the influence of Gertrude, they returned to Paris in 1931 and Greene began to paint (without instruction) at the atelier of the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He and Gertrude experienced firsthand Cubism, the curiosities of Dada and the potency of Surrealism.
Greene rarely painted directly from models. “ I like to see the nude moving around, rather than posed, to get the feeling of the figure in my head” he said. He never wanted to do his own portrait but installed mirrors on his studio walls to catch the nuances of motion, his own and his models, along with the uneven play of light and changing nature entering his work space. Greene painted every day in his studio, he took no Sundays off. But because of ill health he was unable to paint during his last five years. He died in his house above the ocean on November 12, 1990.