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Deane G. Keller at The Woodstock School of Art

online review Summer 2006

Female from the Back charcoal/paper

THERE ARE SO few out there today that to find an artist who hews to rigid standards, who excels in the demanding skill of classical draftsmanship, who respects his craft enough to give it his full due, who — to borrow a hackneyed phrase from the world of greeting cards — “cares enough to give the very best”, that it is cause for proper notice and celebration. Deane G. Keller, scholar and artist, taught (among his many other accomplishments) Classical Drawing and Figurative Art at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, Lyme, Connecticut, one of the few such institutions that continue to carry on the academic traditions of fine art instruction; his recent and much-regretted passing last year serves as the occasion of this especial homage paid to his memory. Although modest in size, this Memorial Exhibition* is more than adequate to show us just how much we have lost. Meticulous, sensitive, each of Keller’s drawings reveal the loving care with which he treated the “academic”, that once-necessary requirement of rendering the human figure that every artist wishing to carry that title with honor had to master. Deane, above all, had done his homework, carefully honing his skills of eye/hand coordination, laboriously learning the secrets of rendering human anatomy on two-dimensional surfaces, proving through countless trials and errors that one had to conquer the task of capturing the figure before one might count oneself among the masters. As awesome as was his abilities as a fine artist, Deane never lost sight of himself as just one more humble student

Figure Study, Cairo, 1995 charcoal/paper

toiling in the noble conservation and furtherance of the academic tradition of stringent standards and dedicated application. I was fortunate to have met Deane — our time together in my library poring over his notes and ideas for his book, Draftsman’s Handbook: A Resource and Study Guide for Drawing from Life — a chance to not only get to know his work, but also the man himself. Our time together sitting side-by-side on my couch was brief — not much longer in duration, perhaps, than it might take to carefully take in this exhibition of about thirty of his work, drawings and oils — but, again like this exhibition, enough to get a measure of the man and of his life’s work, namely the inculcation of academic skills in his students. I’d heard about Deane for some time — mostly from one of his students, the artist Debbie Goertz who brought him to my house — but, because of the “size” of the praise lavished by so many who knew him, was not fully prepared for the soft-spoken gentleman who seemed to want to talk more about my skills as a writer than his as a draftsman. No words, however, can adequately contain either the man or his work, and I can do no more than urge you to take the time to visit the Woodstock School of Art (where Deane has also taught) to view these drawings which so loudly and clearly “speak” their own language. This is fine art indeed, and if only because of its rarity today, ought to be seen, absorbed, savored, cherished, and enjoyed.

*“Dean Keller 1940-2005: Memorial Exhibition” (thru Aug 5): Woodstock School of Art, 2470 Route 212, Woodstock, NY (845) 679-2388.


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