Bringing the Art to You


Week #12

Spiral Bound Sketchbook - p.1 - Study for “An Oriental If”, c. 1955, pastel on paper, 7” x 5”.

An Oriental If, 1957, oil on canvas, 46” x 26"

The Tate Museum offers a brilliant description of Abstract Expressionism:

"Abstract expressionism is the term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often characterised [sic] by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity."

That last part, the impression of spontaneity is indeed something that AbEx artists often claim to be an essential aspect of their way of working. However as the two images above show, an initial moment of spontaneity may very well spark a subsequent iteration of itself.

Dusti Bongé herself also tended to see her work as spontaneous, noting that  when she starts a painting "I never know what my canvas will say.” And yet, there are several examples of her having made a sketch or study which subsequently became a painting, not just in her early figurative years, or during  her surrealist period, but even in her abstract expressionist work. In this latter case, the study and the painting would often be at vastly different scales.

And therein perhaps lies the spontaneity, that Dusti could translate a small sketch with just a few pastel marks in distinct colors into a much larger canvas still reminiscent of those marks with the colors taking on a certain amount of richness and depth.

In the case of An Oriental If, as you can see, the scale changes drastically, and with it the proportions somewhat change as well. However, the color palette doesn’t change at all, nor does the overall compositional gestural movement. One element from the sketch disappears in the painting, the small circular form in the lower right. The blue background is more subdued, and the black edge alongside the red is more sharply defined and more powerful.

Available in our store:



The definitive volume on artist Dusti Bongé, by J. Richard Gruber

Dusti Bongé, Art and Life: Biloxi, New Orleans, New York

Hard bound, 12” x 9”, 350 pages, over 500 color and b&w illustrations

Limited edition lithographs of two original

Dusti Bongé drawings. 

Shrimp Boats & Factories, Back Bay Biloxi I


Shrimp Boats & Factories, Back Bay Biloxi II

​12” x 16” drawing,  15” x 22” paper size

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Our mission: to promote the artistic legacy of Dusti Bongé (1903-1993)