Jim Nutt Tip and Tussle (1997)
Pendant Lithograph on Wove Paper 12.75 x 12.5 x 0.0
University Club of Chicago

Tip and tussle combined 120 rezied

Jim Nutt is the most prominent member of ChicagoХs Harry Who. Among more recent studies on the movement is the exhibit, edited by Christiaan Braun, Eye Infection, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002; and organized by Lynne Warren, with Robert Storr, Jim Nutt: Portraits, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1999

Tip and Tussle (1997) are two lithographs from the later portion of Nutt’s career when he was depicting portraits of female figures, often with exaggerated noses.

The two individual portraits are of the same female figure, but Tip is a line drawing and Tussle is a more rendered drawing, with pattern and shading. Tip is a black and white line drawing of a female looking out at the viewer with her head turned towards the right.

The figure’s pronounced nose points towards the right and a thin line slopes crookedly from below her left eyebrow down the bridge of her nose to the tip, perhaps suggesting a scar on the defined feature. The female gazes outward with her right eye slightly higher than the left eye, and her right eyebrow is also raised, which imparts an uncertain or unsteady personality to the figure.

In the thin line drawing, the only pronounced shading is beneath the vertical crown, or headpiece, that ornaments her hair. Tussle displays the same female figure but rendered with more details and shadowing. Her blouse is a complex web of intersecting bands that weave within and between one another.

The bands at the lower edge of the composition are thicker and larger than the bands closer to the figure’s neck and upper shoulder, giving the illusion of depth and receding space.

The female’s face is also more shaded and defined than the linear portrait Tip. Her nose is shaded with light and dark gray tones, which accents the crooked quality of the line across her nose. Her right pupil is also darker than her left pupil and enhances the unsteady character of her gaze.

Through shading and patterned lines, the figure’s hair has transformed from a simple rendering in Tip to an intricately patterned and stylized feature in Tussle. Shaded in light grey at the top of her head and descending downward to darker gray, the hair is adorned with linear patterns that accentuate the curves and arches of the style and informs a sense of volume.

In Tussle, the crown-like embellishment on her head is well defined and its circular shape curves upward towards the right while the exterior of the crown is rendered as a grid pattern. Tip and Tussle showcase Jim Nutt’s mastery with drawing by depicting two formally different portraits of the same female figure.

The two artworks also display the difference between a line drawing, with minimal shading or details, and a drawing imbued with defined shading, texture, and rich detail. While the two drawings vary formally, they both evoke the same nervous, unusual and uncertain personality from the female subject.

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