What is it?
Mark Mulhern (b. Portage 1951)
Oil on linen
78 x 90 in.
Gifted 2021, The Art Ball Fund
About the Work
The simplified forms and flattened pictorial space of Mark Mulhern’s October Gathering create a curiously inviting scene of celebration. Anchored by his iconic triangular centerpiece of tiered macaroons in a Rococo palette of pastels, Mulhern’s contemporary fête galante presents elegantly attired partygoers in a parkland setting. Color, pattern, and a gauzy application of oil paint take on a perceptual importance equal to their representational counterparts and contribute to a dreamy quality suggesting collected experiences and memories.
Mulhern masterfully captures the rhythm and implied encounters of the occasion. Rose reds dancing across the top of the painting lead the eye and imagination to follow a woman dressed in red, as she fades into the layered and loosely rendered French topiary gardens. An elongated wave of string lights traverses the heavily populated portions of the composition to converge along with the sightlines of multiple figures in an ethereal clearing.
Mulhern received a BFA from Milwaukee’s Layton School of Art in 1973 and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1978. A formative experience that continues to inspire his drawings and paintings was his study in Paris under English Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist Stanley William Hayter. Mulhern’s work is in such renowned collections as La Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago.