Drawn to the Past: Becoming Andre Gisson

Drawn to the Past: Becoming Andre Gisson

Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong era?

It turns out that this hankering for days past isn’t just a modern phenomenon...

Anders Gitellson was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1921 and was subsequently raised by his Swedish immigrant parents in Westport, Connecticut. As a teenager, Gitellson decided that he wanted to become a famous painter. As a young graduate of the Pratt Institute, he found it difficult to differentiate himself from other painters in New York City, both because of the number of artists working in the late 1930s and early 1940s and because Gitellson did not identify with contemporary movements in art, like Surrealism.

Gitellson was instead drawn to the style and subject matter from another era, more specifically the art of the 19th century French Impressionists. He also believed that viewers were more likely to identify with the Impressionist aesthetic and subject matter. When asked why he preferred Impressionist to contemporary art movements, he said “When I begin to paint, certain remembered sensations come to me and it is these that I translate into visual form and related subjects. These subjects-- people, the nude, florals, landscapes, beaches, etc., recur constantly like obsessive memories. For the most part they are the common universal experiences of all of us, neither contemporary nor out of an antique past, but with a sentiment which I hope is recognizable to others at any time."

At the beginning of his career the painter was still struggling to find his own artistic style. Just as his career as an artist was beginning, Gitellson joined the United States Army during World War II, eventually achieving the rank of captain.  It is believed that it was during his time serving overseas in Europe that Gitellson was inspired by the work of the 19th century Impressionist painters active in France. Upon returning to the United States after the war, the artist made the transformation from Anders Gitellson to Andre Gisson.

 A star was born…

Now working under the name Andre Gisson (French pronunciation), the artist edited his biography to reflect his vision for his career. He claimed to be a Paris trained French artist, and added 10 years to his age, making him old enough to have studied under some of the later Impressionist artists.

And it worked. Gisson became famous for his Impressionist style depictions of city streets, landscapes, and still life. His work inspired a renewed interest in the French Impressionists and their style of painting. For 40 years, Gisson had an active career and even lived in Paris for several years. He died a resident of Connecticut in 2003.

Gisson self-described universal style can still be observed in his work today. In his untitled still life of fruit and dishes (shown above), the brushstrokes have the typical energy of an Impressionist, the result being a realistic painting that still has the quality of a sketch. His depiction focuses on the play of light on objects, rather than an exhaustive record of minute detail. However, Gisson added his own style to that of the 19th century Impressionism. His color pallet is restrained and the use of light is pure and clear. This gives his still life a sense of the otherworldly, providing a soothing and bright view for the audience, rather than the sometimes riotous and hyperpigmented experience of a 19th century Impressionist painting.


The still life pictured above is Lot #6 in Oakridge Auction Gallery’s upcoming auction, the Fall Fine Art, Antiques, and Jewelry Sale on October 27th, 2018. A full description, measurements, and condition report for this Andre Gisson Oil on Canvas Still Life Painting are available in the online catalog. Details of our upcoming auctions and the items available for sale can also be found on our website www.oakridgeauctiongallery.com.

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 Lizzie Doerr is the Cataloger for the Western Art and Antiques Department at Oakridge Auction Gallery. She specializes in American Art and recently graduated with a Masters of Arts degree in Art History from Indiana University at Bloomington.