Rap music can be heard emerging from the Julian Cardinal Fine Art Studio in Burlington, Vermont, providing the perfect accompanying soundtrack to his creative process. Cardinal brings oil to canvas with a unique technique that consists of loose brush strokes and muted hues that a prominent gallery rep once called “retro vintage Impressionism.” The 29 year old artist from the tip of Cape Cod in Truro, Massachusetts has showcased his vast, colorful array of feminine figures, still lifes and landscapes at prominent galleries in Burlington, the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, Bridgehampton, NY, Richmond, VA, Chatham, MA, and Provincetown, MA, where his parents have owned their own business, Kiley Court Gallery, for nearly 30 years.
As an alternative to modern and traditional art that Cardinal considers to be “too tight,” he prefers a dreamy and airy quality for his work that is further enabled by his use of earthy tones to create an overall loose composition. Citing influences ranging from French impressionists Monet, Cezanne and Degas to neo-expressionist Jean Michel Basquiat and renowned Provincetown painters Anne and Cynthia Packard, he has worked wonders with the female form, including the creation of over 50 variations of his most popular image, “The Running Girl,” originally based on a black and white photograph. His fluidity, vague facial features, and incorporation of fashion make for a dynamic exploration of the feminine mystique. Cardinal has also come to be known for his subtle yet radiant still lifes of flower bouquets, which Cynthia Packard has said remind her compositionality of his human figures.
When discussing his process, Cardinal explains that he prefers to work quickly as a means to preserve the initial intention that he set out to do when beginning a piece. “I choose images that my style works well with,” he says. “Compositionally, I prefer simple subject matters and lines. I often pick black and white photos that I can add an element of color and depth too. I'll look through hundreds of pictures, and will usually pick a couple from that list. When I paint nudes and flowers, however, I like to paint live. There is something about setting up a bouquet and painting it that is very rewarding.”
He draws inspiration from vintage subject matter, especially early 20th century French fashion, an aesthetic component that crosses over into his real life as well. He says, “I love fashion in general and buy a lot of clothes cut by certain designers. I was inspired by the many 20th Century fashion books I had, finding myself attracted to the curved and sharp lines in the dress. Once I gain a sense of the picture's composition, I can then duplicate the images using different sized canvases, colors and line patterns. My goal is to combine the vintage style of fashion with contemporary Expressionism.”
Becoming a painter was as much a matter of choice for Julian as it was part of his family’s DNA. The son of renowned Cape Cod landscape painter and gallery owner Robert Cardinal, he grew up watching his dad work in his studio, spent time at art museums, and hung around the galleries in the historic artist colony of Provincetown. At the age of 19, while enrolled as an English major with an Art minor at the University of Vermont, Cardinal began following in his father’s footsteps and created his first series of paintings that included seascapes and the figure of a fiddle player. Once his initial paintings were displayed and quickly sold at Kiley Court Gallery, Cardinal was commissioned to paint more and began receiving local and regional buzz around Provincetown. When Cardinal was in his early 20s, he joined forces with his father and business partner to open up a gallery in Burlington that showcased his and his dad’s work as well as local artists. Another noteworthy member of Cardinal’s family is his maternal great-grandfather, Benjamin Sonnenberg, who was a pioneering public relations mogul and prominent art collector in New York City during the 20th Century. The creative pursuits from both sides of Cardinal’s family has motivated and inspired him to pursue an artistic path.
Apart from his interest in the arts, Cardinal also developed skills as a tennis player, which led him to enroll in an academy and become a teaching professional. Additionally, he spent much of his youth performing in competitions and festivals as an accomplished violinist, both within the United States and Europe. It is evident how music as both a fluid medium and necessary background presence to his workspace has continued to have an influence on his work.
Since 2011, Cardinal has exhibited at Scarlett Galleries in Burlington, was included in a group show at Essex Art Gallery in Essex, CT, and George Billis Gallery, where he made his New York City debut in 2015. His time at George Billis Gallery led to participation in the Art Hamptons in Bridgehampton, NY and Cityscapes: a Group Exhibition in 2017. That same year, he was part of both Emerging Artists and Members’ Juried at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. In addition to Kiley Court Gallery, Cardinal has exhibited with his father at Thos. Moser Boston Showroom in Boston, MA, West End Gallery in Provincetown, MA, and Robert Cardinal Fine Art in Chatham, MA. He is currently represented by Lilac Gallery in New York City.