Alvin Gittins preached: The amateur always maximizes the minimal and minimalizes the maximal!
When asked who of the old masters was the most Talented? Gittins said, "Frans Hals!"
Alvin Gittins was a portraitist grandeur, teacher and even greater man than artist. Gittins was born in the small town of Kidderminster, Worcester, England. In 1946, he came to the United States as an exchange student. In 1947 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University. He then was appointed to the University of Utah art department faculty that same year. He headed the University's art department from 1956 to 1962.
When he came to the University of Utah, Gittins brought with him a powerful concept of academic realism to enhance the still lingering effects of French Impressionism, already established but not fine tuned. He chose academic methods to express simple truths about humans by way of the human face and body. He admonished students to "go beyond pretty rendering" in their search for something authentic. As time progressed, he experienced firsthand the changing face of art. Gittins found himself in a field which sought to challenge the establishment and abandon tradition. Gittins stood mostly alone as the majority of art teachers and Historians went forward preaching the abandonment of classical foundation as important, in favor of the value of being different. It’s amusing how everyone was trying to be different, going to great lengths to follow the modern crowd, and for doing so, unknowingly they were all basically choosing to be the same. As Gittins practiced the classical school of figure and portraiture, he became one of our countries finest portrait painters. His paintings rival Sargent’s but with tightness and color.
He always strived for his paintings to have a more-so-ness about them. He had family members of his subject in his paintings; tell him that the painting looked more like the person than the person themselves. As a teacher, he used student’s drawings and paintings to illustrate anatomical mistakes. At the models brake time, he would grab a drawing or painting from the easel of a student and turn it to face the whole class room and ask the rest of the students, what if you were walking down the beach and you saw this person as they had drawn them, walking towards you. What would you say to the person you were with about the drawings deformity? He emphasized to his students that the amateur always maximized the minimal and minimize the maximal. He spoke of heaven, saying there would be never ending lines of interesting models of every sort to draw and paint.
He worked mostly with pastels, oils, charcoals, and pencil. In 1981 he died leaving a wealth of paintings at the University of Utah and Public buildings around the country as well as a legacy of Utah artists such as Ed Maryon, Greg Hull, Steven Heward and Danny Baxter
A couple of times a quarter he would do a drawing on a students drawing pad as a personal demonstration. Here are some of his finest example.
Oil painting on stretch linen (30" x 50") by Alvin Gittins.
Professor Sydney W. Angleman,
Professor of English
Director of General Education
Associate Dean, College of Letters and Science.
It's unheard of to see a "Professor Portrait" by Alvin Gittins
The second drawing Steven Heward asked Gittins to draw for him.
A drawing getting demoed for one of his students.
I had taken quite a few classes from Gittins without any demonstrations. So I asked if he would do one for me and this was my first demo.
This was the third drawing Gittins drew for Steven Heward