Rob Browning “always loved art,” and had parents who recognized his young talent, buying him books to encourage a budding interest in drawing and painting. Browning, a native of Nahor, a village in Fluvanna County, Virginia, received his BFA in Communications Arts and Design in 1979 from Virginia Commonwealth University. In studying art, he felt most influenced by 20th century illustrators Dean Cornwell, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle and Andrew Loomis, among others.
Browning was also attracted to the work of several American painters. “I like the same thing [Edward] Hopper seems to have liked. I see him as a minimalist and I try to boil my work down to the minimum, weeding out what’s unnecessary, to make the piece more focused and hopefully, more generic. I leave out the detail. I like simple shapes and colors but I didn’t consciously try to paint like Hopper. I like the work of Thomas Hart Benton too, but my work is influenced more by other American Regionalist painters like Grant Wood and Dale Nichols.”
Browning’s early work focused on architecture and grew to include more figures. He took figure classes and continues to do so today at Lake Monticello where Browning and his family now live. He says his later work became more stylized and minimalist. “I like people as a subject. I can’t think of anything more important to humans than humans. And houses are things that are important to them. I saw houses starting to represent people…The soul needs a body to live in and our houses become an extension of ourselves. I like to paint them and remind myself of that point—people at home.”
Browning recalls a drive home from Washington, D.C. in which he slowed for a moment in traffic, passing a young girl on her bike, and nearby, a woman standing beside her car. He was intrigued and haunted by the scene. “I felt like I was intruding, that I was viewing a private thing. I couldn’t get it out of my head,” he says. “There was something about the scene that disturbed me so I turned it into a painting with my daughter, then 12, as the model for the girl on the bike. Only after I finished the painting did I realize that the painting was about my daughter growing up, becoming the young woman and being taken away by that car. My daughter is now 21.”
A reviewer in Charlottesville’s The Hook notes, “Rob Browning’s work is not strictly dedicated to structures. Small portraits hang amid his larger, more surreal images, which thrill with blocks of saturated color…Browning uses houses to prod viewers’ ideas about isolation, inside and outside, and what is hidden but suggested.”
Stephen Margulies, Volunteer Curator of the Fralin Art Museum says, “Like the artist himself, Rob Browning’s paintings possess strength of character and the almost bizarre beauty of lonely honesty. In his work, Browning fuses character and caricature, weirdness and beauty, satire and lovely truth, humor and eerie sobriety.”
Browning’s paintings have been exhibited from the Om Gallery, New Orleans, to the Robeson Gallery at Penn State University, the District Fine Arts Gallery in Washington, D.C. and Bosque Conservatory of Art in Clifton, Texas. His work will be shown this summer at Gallery 7 and Piedmont Community College, both in Charlottesville. See more on Browning’s website: robbrowningart.com
You can read more at our related blog about Robert Browing and Robin Braun’s collaborative art show: Creative collaboration…
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