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In his 1939 autobiography entitled An American Artist’s Story, George Biddle wrote that art “is a re-creation, a reaction to, a critique of life, expressed subconsciously in a given medium with a certain rhythm.” Over the course of a fifty-year career that spanned continents, media, and aesthetic schools, Biddle created works that gave expressive form to his own experiences and to the changing face of twentieth-century life.

Born to a prominent Philadelphia family, Biddle was educated in places of privilege, including Groton, Harvard, and Harvard Law School. His family’s social expectations contradicted his own creative instincts, a tension at the root of two youthful emotional breakdowns. By 1911, the artist had discovered his own voice and enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris. The following year, he furthered his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Throughout his life, Biddle was an inveterate traveler who absorbed lessons while working in Europe, Tahiti, South America, Africa, and Asia.

Living abroad in the early decades of the twentieth century, Biddle developed relationships with a wide swath of artists whose work shaped his own development, including Fred Frieseke, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, and Jules Pascin. Following service as an infantry officer on the French front from 1917–1919, Biddle emerged from the Great War “with a clearly defined orientation and a desperate need to make up for lost time.” For two years, he lived in a Polynesian village before establishing a studio in New York, a decision that did little to dampen his enthusiasm for world travel. In 1928, Biddle accompanied the muralist Diego Rivera on a sketching trip in Mexico, an experience that would inform his own highly successful career as a social realist focused on contemporary America.

Rivera’s influence and Regionalist painting trends in the United States—such as strongly demarcated facial features and exaggerated physical forms—can be seen in Biddle’s mature oeuvre, including In the Breakers and Street Shoppers, Charleston, South Carolina. At the invitation of DuBose Heyward, author of Porgy, and the composer George Gershwin, Biddle visited Charleston, South Carolina, in 1930. For two months, he sketched genre scenes and figure studies, many of which were later developed into finished studio canvases. A selection of his illustrations were ultimately published in Gershwin’s original 1935 libretto to Porgy and Bess.

During the Depression, Biddle drew on his childhood connection with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to champion the development of the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration. Active as a painter, teacher, and writer throughout his later years, Biddle’s drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures have been featured in over one hundred solo exhibitions, and were also represented in important group shows. His work is represented in the collections of such prestigious institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Museum of Modern Art, and Whitney Museum of Fine Art, among others.