Dutch Snyder (1941-). American. Born Arthur Raymond Snyder in Saint Louis Missouri. Snyder studied philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis (BA 1961), then moved to New York to study painting and eventually enrolled at Columbia University, graduating with an MFA in painting in 1965.
Snyder began his career working in abstract expressionism but, influenced by such contemporaries as Chuck Close, soon moved to photorealism. Like Close, he often painted from photographs and worked on large scale pieces, employing the grid system favored by Malcolm Morley and Close, among others. Quickly, Snyder became obsessed with the “staged-ness” of his photoreal pieces. So much so that, unlike other photo realists, who might obsessively recreate the shine of a chrome tailfin, or the washed-out skin-tone of a (seemingly) candid headshot (Close), Snyder’s compositions grew increasingly fantastic, often overfilled with what he called consumer detritus—lawn chairs, inflatable pool toys, industrial canisters of cheesepuffs—set against incongruous backdrops, a Staten Island service station, for example, as in the case of his painting Untitled #77 (1969).
Over the past decade and a half his work has grown increasingly provocative. Aggressively sexual in nature, his large compositions are still intended to arrest the viewer before such over-wrought images of American consumerism, but, as he has said in an interview, his concerns have shifted toward what he sees as “An increasing comodification of the physical.” “We’ve always been for sale,” he went on. “As human beings we’ve always bought and sold one another, but somewhere there was this shift from subject to object. We’re no longer subject to the rule of others, we have all become objects. It isn’t that we don’t see ourselves as commodities, or that any of this is against our will, instead we see ourselves for what we are and we really don’t seem to care.”
Snyder’s family life has always been a source of rumor and speculation. He married Linda Ellison in 1961, and they had one child together, a girl, Gretchen, in 1963. They divorced in 1971. Linda died of cancer in 1982. In 1978, Snyder remarried, this time to the choreographer Dolores Steiner. They have two children together, Charles (born 1980) and Leena (born 1983). Snyder is rumored to have carried on a number of affairs in that time, but there is no evidence that his marriage to Steiner is strained in any way.
In 1980 Snyder was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disease that has left him virtually paralyzed from the waist down, and his hands, though his wrists are typically steadied in braces, tremble so severely that he is virtually unable to hold a brush. He is still quite productive however; since the mid-80s Snyder has had a sizable team of assistants at his disposal, and his contribution to his own paintings comes usually in the form of direction.