Peter Saul

2008 Artist Award

Cold Sweat, 1999, acrylic on canvas, 55 1/8 x 66 7/8 inches. Courtesy of David Nolan Gallery, New York.
Squeeze Pimple?, 2009, acrylic on canvas. 59 x 59 inches. Courtesy of David Nolan Gallery, New York.


Peter Saul is a painter based in Germantown, New York. Saul explores socio-political topics as well as everyday contemporary life in lush, cartoon-like compositions. He studied at the California School of Fine Arts and Washington University. His work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Musée Paul Valèry, Sète, France; Musée d’Art modern et contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, among others. His work is held in public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, among others.




OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA—September 30, 2008—The Artists’ Legacy Foundation announced today that its second annual award of $25,000 will be given to artist Peter Saul. The Foundation created the Artist Award to recognize and honor accomplishments of an outstanding visual artist whose primary medium is painting and/or sculpture.

Peter Saul is a painter. His nominator wrote: “I have admired Peter Saul’s work for twenty years because his paintings challenge our aesthetic values as well as light a fire under our social, political and sexual conscience. His art is not meant to please but to engage, much like its historical precedents: Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa and Picasso’s Guernica. In the 1960’s Peter Saul began to mix acrylic paint with his oil paint and commit more absolutely to the imaging techniques of popular cartoons. What Saul achieves in color and texture, raises the bar for un-likeable painting, painting we approach not to feel good but to really see. Peter Saul is definitely one of a kind and is deeply admired by young artists.”

Peter Saul has been a practicing artist for the past 50 years. Mr. Saul was born in San Francisco in 1934. He attended the California School of Fine Arts (today the San Francisco Art Institute) and Washington University School of Fine Arts in St. Louis. He has worked and lived in many places: Holland, France, and Italy during eight years after college; Mill Valley, CA, Chappaqua, NY, and Austin, TX during the next 36 years. Mr. Saul taught at the University of Texas at Austin from 1981 until 2000, when he retired and moved to New York. Since 2001 he has lived in New York City and Germantown, NY. He is currently represented by the David Nolan Gallery in New York (

Peter Saul: A Retrospective, a major survey of the artist’s paintings and drawings, was organized by guest curator Dan Cameron and the Orange County Museum of Art. It is on view in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from Oct. 18 to Jan. 4 and it will travel to the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans. The catalogue published in conjunction with the exhibition provides the following observations: “Inspired to a creative breakthrough after glancing at a copy of Mad magazine, promoted by the Surrealist Matta, and discovered in Paris, American artist Peter Saul (b. 1934) has created often difficult, funny, and trenchant works-‘sick jokes,’ according to Robert Storr. His paintings have taken on subjects ranging from embarrassing personal foibles to important events in American history such at the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. Given the ongoing lack of recognition for the work of this controversial, influential, and pioneering artist, a deeper examination of Saul’s career is long overdue.” The 160 page catalogue includes essays by Dan Cameron and Michael Duncan and an interview by Robert Storr.

Mr. Saul was informed of the award by telephone and said: “Receiving the Artists’ Legacy Foundation Award is a total surprise, and I am thrilled and delighted to accept it.” A ceremony honoring the artist will take place in the San Francisco Bay Area this fall.

Each year, ten artists, either painters or sculptors, are nominated anonymously by five nominators for the Artist Award. This year the Foundation’s panel of jurors included Polly Apfelbaum, painter; Richard Kalina, art critic, professor, painter, and art historian; and Gay Outlaw, sculptor. The nominators and the jurors are art world peers who are chosen for their expertise. The 2008 jurors agreed: “It was very challenging to select the award recipient because all ten nominees were extremely worthy.”

The Artists’ Legacy Foundation was established by artists Squeak Carnwath and Viola Frey and incorporated in Oakland, California in 2000. With the death of Viola Frey in 2004, her estate became the first to be transferred to the Artists’ Legacy Foundation. Over time, the Foundation anticipates adding additional artists’ estates.

The mission of the Artists’ Legacy Foundation is to promote the art and legacy of Foundation artists after their deaths and to support and advance painters and sculptors of the highest quality through award and grant programs. The Artist Award program is designed to encourage recipients to spend more creative time in their studios and allow ongoing professional enrichment. As an award program there are no restrictions on the use of funds by the recipient.

Through publications and exhibitions, the Foundation serves as a resource to scholars, curators and the general public by deepening their understanding of the work of Foundation artists. Educational programs sponsored by the Foundation help inform artists about estate planning and choices they need to make about their work throughout their careers. In October 2008 a four week program on estate planning will be offered for working artists in conjunction with the San Francisco Art Institute. A collaborative project with the Joan Mitchell Foundation entitled, Creating a Lasting Record, extends the work of the Artists’ Legacy Foundation. This project is enabling four older artists to document their artwork, creating data bases for future catalogues raisonné.

download press release (PDF)