Philip Malicoat: Large Works

Philip Malicoat painted and played the cello in his studio on Bradford Street, but he often spent his mornings and evenings immersed in the visual and symphonic drama of the shoreline and in the dunes, at the dune shack he built on the strip of land that ran from his home to the back shore.

He told one interviewer that in the 1930s, Provincetown had been a place for him to “get out of the way of the rush of civilization” (1964). Malicoat’s landscape paintings, like those of his good friend Edwin Dickinson, offer sensory encounters: in the nacreous grays of Provincetown’s silvery mists, and dense, wet fogs we experience the temperature, breeze and humidity of the place. The severe blankness and obscurity of the back shore — whether stormy or still — speaks of somatic absorption, of walking and inhabiting the shoreline and knowing it viscerally.

Unlike his generally smaller landscapes, Malicoat’s large figure paintings have remained in his family and are likely a surprising discovery for the many viewers of this exhibition. The enigmatic narratives of these studio paintings plumb the potential of still life and figural assemblages to convey symbolic gravity or allegory, and they take various approaches to the personhood of represented figures.

– Excerpted from Maura Coughlin’s essay Immersed in Half-Light, which will be featured in the forth-coming exhibition catalogue.

Image: Philip C. Malicoat (1908-1981), detail of Chess Players, 1937, Private Collection.