Robert Lostutter

Robert Lostutter is a Chicago based artist and a member of the Chicago Imagists. Sharing his interest in figurative based imagery with his contemporaries, Lostutter creates fascinating and imaginative composite figures. He enjoys blurring the distinctions between humans, plants and animals, often creating vibrant and colorful portraits of his human-bird or human-plant hybrids.

Lostutter attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1958 through 1961 where he was highly influenced by John Rogers Cox, an academic painter, who imparted on him the importance of traditional drawing and painting techniques. It was also during this time that his integration into the Chicago Imagists began. Like other artists with this association, Lostutter’s work is intricate, whimsical, surrealistic and explores themes outside of the norm. After a trip to Mexico in the 1970’s, Lostutter was mesmerized by the beauty of the tropical birds and plants he witnessed. This fascination inspired his avian studies and a large body of work that integrates the human form with birds and plants.

Lostutter is renowned for his incredibly detailed watercolor process. He originally created watercolors as studies for his larger oil paintings. However, by the 1970’s, Lostutter saw the merits of refining his watercolor method and it quickly became his medium of choice. His process begins with a pencil drawing that lays out realistically proportioned figures, usually males. They then receive his treatment of anatomical exaggerations and distortions that transform their features. Lostutter’s in-depth avian knowledge greatly informs his composite creations. He plays with the scale and proportion of certain features that transmute his figures into attractive and otherworldly creatures. Saturated colors fill the hair that has been reformed as feathers or leaves, and noses regenerated as bold beaks. His impeccable and exacting technique allows viewers to see the minute brush strokes that make up the smallest details in his work, often painted with a single-haired brush.

Although Lostutter’s work explores many themes, the one constant in his artwork is people, exhibited in one form or another. His imagery defies conventional renderings of the human body and shows them transformed. As with the other Chicago Imagists, Lostutter’s work forces the viewer to confront their preconceived notions of the peculiar and instead to appreciate the remarkable. His work can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Smithsonian Institute of American Art and the Kansas City Art Institute.

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