India Temples No. 2 (Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Tiruchirapalli), 1954 (February)
Congdon was based in Venice throughout the 1950s. His energetic visions of the city established his reputation among American collectors. However, his growing interior conflicts led him to travel compulsively, searching for both inspiration and answers to his personal troubles. Eventually these found relief when Congdon converted to Catholicism in 1958.
Even before the conversion several aspects of Congdon’s work prefigured his spiritual inclination: above all the concern with light (with the related use of gold paint) and the concentration on religious sites. The paintings of Hindu temples made in February 1954 at Sri Ranganathaswamy, south west of Chennai, are exemplary.
Painting [WC 3]
Oil, gold paint and enamel on hardboard (Masonite)
945 x 1240 mm
About the artist
Congdon was born at Rhode Island, USA, and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He began to paint whilst studying English and Spanish literature at Yale University. He travelled extensively in Europe in the 1930s, before returning to the US in 1937 and sculpting for a period. Following war service as an ambulance driver in Africa and Italy, Congdon returned to New York, where he began to paint semi-abstract landscapes and urban scenes. In 1950 he returned to Italy, accompanied by Jim Ede, and painted intensively in Venice and Rome. These works were instrumental in establishing his reputation. In the late 1950s he settled in Italy and converted to Catholicism. He lived in Assisi in the 1960s and 1970s, painting series of pictures of Venice and Subiaco. From 1979 he lived in a monastry in Gudo Gambaredo, near Milan. Illness and old age hampered his output in his last years, although he was enthusiastically involved with his "Foundation for Improving Understanding of the Arts". Congdon typically constructed his paintings from thick layers of paint into which the outline of the subject is scored. A compulsive traveller, his range of subject matter is very diverse, and there is a persistent spiritual element underpinning his art.