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Norman Rubingon portrait, 1973. Click to enlarge.

"At five," Rubington says, "everyone is a painter. I just kept on." Having so decided, Norman Rubington, born June 20, 1921 in New Haven, Connecticut, enrolled in the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1939. He studied there until 1943, when he left for service in the Corps of Engineers at Will Rogers Air Base in Oklahoma. In the service Rubington trained in map-making, mosaic overlay from aerial photos, and photo interpretation for military intelligence. He sketched and painted at every opportunity and executed a mural in the Service Club. He continued to work while on tour of duty in India and China.

Rubington left for France in 1946 to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. His work was highly acclaimed and immediately accepted for exhibition in the Salons. In 1948 he had his first one-man show in Paris at the Salon d'Automne. He was invited to join a group of French painters as the only American representative, and illustrated a limited-edition book produced by the group titled Douze Peintres, Douze Poetes.

Norman Rubington, portrait 1953. Click to enlarge.After completing his studies under the G.I. Bill, Rubington moved back to New York, had his first one-man show, and then in 1951, was awarded the Prix de Rome. Inspired to return to Europe, he lived and worked at the American Academy in Rome until 1954, participating with Italian and American painters in various group shows as well as a one-man show at Rome's Schneider Gallery. Back in the United States after 1954, Rubington began a series of shows in Boston, New York and San Francisco. He returned to Paris in 1958 after receiving a grant from the Tiffany Foundation and, after completing a series of new paintings, submitted them for show in New York. A selection from this group gained him a Guggenheim Fellowship, enabling him to return to his Paris base.

During the following years, Rubington devoted some time to book illustration and experimental films. Writing under the nom de plume "Akbar del Piombo" and using collages of 19th-century engravings for the illustrations, he produced a series of satirical works on socially and politically relevant subjects. In 1965 he illustrated The Olympia Reader for Grove Press, working with literary greats such as William Burroughs. His unique style of animation became the forerunner of Monty Python's Flying Circus. By 1970 Rubington had returned to New York following a summer residency at the McDowell Art Colony in New Hampshire. He continued working on his art up until the day he died - New Year's Day 1991.

Photos: Frank Monaco (Rex Features), London, England