A mystery in Chicago art history is how painter Robert Lostutter never was regarded as one of the local artists who became known as Imagists. He was born in 1939, the same year as an artist with whom he became friends, Imagist Ed Paschke. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in the same years as Paschke and other Imagists. Like them, he was a figurative artist whose early works were darkly fantastic and influenced by Pop Art. Also like them, his works caused an immediate sensation among collectors of Chicago painting and found their way into many homes that supported the Imagist phenomenon.
Robert Lostutter is best known for his brightly colored paintings of mysterious male figures wearing elaborate feathered and flowered masks. However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s Lostutter produced a number of small watercolors and drawings of female subjects where he began to explore many of the elements seen in his later paintings. Inspired by Richard Lindner’s practice of taking trips to Bloomingdale’s and watching women self-consciously trying on clothes, the girls in these watercolors share both the fascination with costume that would come to characterize Lostutter’s later work, and the preoccupation with complicated undergarments held by many of his Imagist colleagues. In contrast to the overt imagery of the women and their clothing, Lostutter also introduces ambiguous surreal elements like a bizarre floating gloved hand, dancing zaps and splashes that are made three-dimensional, and strategically placed, exuberantly blooming flowers.
Lostutter often made these works on paper in preparation for larger paintings on canvas. Lostutter’s watercolors were the subject of a solo exhibition at the Renaissance Society in 1984 and his work has been included in group shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Terra Museum of American Art, and the Corcoran Gallery.