Monday, May 24, 2010
Richard Mayhew "Winter" 1960 oil on canvas
Well about four years ago I had an idea of putting together an exhibition of African American Realist that work in various mediums and subject matter. My goal was to put out a voice that I thought was missing in American Art. Being that I would see an artist (strong African American realist) here and there, but I’ve never seen them come together really as a strong collective. My thinking was that as a collective we would have more of and impact and voice. But in typical fashion I never got the project off the ground. In my initial statement I referenced the three big African American Realist of the late 19th and early 20th century Tanner, Bannister and Duncanson, but outside of those three I really didn’t have jumping off spots (points of reference) at that particular time. Which later had me pondering. Where is my history as a painter (people that looked like me doing what I did)? Don’t get me wrong my all time favorite painters are Rembrandt, Sargeant, Degas and Velasquez in no particular order and Cézannes watercolors are the best thing since cornbread. But why wasn’t their a black Rembrandt or Sargeant? Are they hidden? The only thing I really remembered seeing was Tanners the “Banjo Lesson” in art history and one painting couldn’t hold my attention as well as 20 Sargeants. When I was younger I didn’t think about this issue too much it was all about who had the slickest brush strokes and thickest paint. But as I got older I did want see more of people that look like me that shared my language through out American Art. Now four years after my initial idea for the exhibition and about 17 years since my first art history class. I’m about to go on my own little journey and unearth the “umber”.
Well I’m thinking about starting with someone I didn’t know about. While I was at the library I stumbled upon Richard Mayhew. I wrote his name down, so could come home and do some more research. One of the first pieces I saw "Winter" was a beautiful landscape with more subdued naturalistic colors. I was like word, I hit the jackpot. Further looking him up on-line I ran across more landscapes and realized I was familiar with him and recently seen his paintings in an exhibit about a week ago. His newer work he uses much more rich vibrant impressionist colors. There strikingly brilliant and bold like a early Mondrian (ex. "Windmill in Sunlight") and also very atmospheric slightly reminiscent of Monet.
He as born in 1924 in Amityville, Long Island. His mother was half Cherokee and African American; his father was also half Native American and African American. While in his 20’s while living in New York City he worked as portrait painter, a jazz singer and also did medical illustrations while in school. He studied art at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, Pratt, Columbia University, Students League and Academia abroad in Florence Italy. He was also a founder the African American artist group “Spiral” along with artist Romare Bearden. It was an art group involved with the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. His paintings are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, The Smithsonian, The Chicago Art institute and many other museums and private collections. Mayhew is one of the most sought after African American painters living.
With the strength of "Winter" I've decided to make an acception to my own rule, this once. But also knowing he painted portraits and did illustrations. I know theres more Naturalistic work Mayhew out there.
After doing the research on Richard Mayhew I decided to devote the blog soley to this personal project.