German Bar Scene, by Clark Hulings

Come Here Often?

“The long landscape orientation makes it seem like a “slice” and is reminiscent of the letterbox layout of a movie screen.”

Just in case we thought we could pigeonhole Clark Hulings, there’s this: a 1959 illustration that questions the idea that he’s purely a realist. The fact remains that Hulings had the skill to do whatever he wanted artistically. He knew the percussive techniques of abstract expressionism—and they are hiding in secret corners, and sometimes even in plain sight, in otherwise figurative easel paintings. And as this piece demonstrates, he understood design and pop art as well.

Keep Your Eye on Your Drink

German Bar Scene is a sophisticated illustration that looks as if it could have been influenced by the best graphic novel and comic book artists. The story of three people at a bar is made abstract by the way the frame crops out the faces of the bartender and the woman. The long landscape orientation makes it seem like a “slice” and is reminiscent of the letterbox layout of a movie screen. A high-contrast look and assertive black outlines give this piece rhythm and style. The bottles behind the bar are rendered in a very abstract way, almost like a floating tile mosaic. The bartender seems to be working on cleaning something as the man reaches across him. The woman’s drink is stylized as a yellow martini, and the man may or may not be trying to slip something into it as she looks away. So although this is a stylish scene, it’s also a sinister one.

Herr Professor

There aren’t too many German pieces in Hulings body of work, but it makes sense that we would see this in 1959, when he spent six months studying with Hans Georg Lentzen in Dusseldorf. Lenzen was a professor of design at Dusseldorf University and later at Kansas City Art Institute, and a professional illustrator, watercolorist, and translator. A monograph edited by Irmgard Sonnen was released this year: Hans Georg Lenzen: With a Light Hand, notes the tragi-comic characters and allegories in his work. You can certainly see some striking characters and tragic story elements in this Hulings piece created during his time studying with Lenzen.

Listen to the Source

This illustration is mentioned in the talk “One Man’s Path to An Art Career” Hulings gave at The Art Students League of New York in 2007, which we have available on DVD at the Clark Hulings online store.

Elizabeth Hulings