SEVEN DECADES OF THE CREATIVE LIFE
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Portraits of leaders in the arts, painted by one of their own, are the focus at the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery this spring. Opening on March 23, 2018, AMERICA CREATIVE: PORTRAITS BY EVERETT RAYMOND KINSTLER showcases the storytelling skill of the country’s foremost living portraitist and celebrates a generation of creativity. An opening reception will be held on Friday, March 23 from 5 to 7 pm and a lecture and painting demonstration by the artist will take place on Saturday, March 24 at 3pm in Sarratt Cinema. The sitter at this event will be Eddie George, former star running back for the Tennessee Titans who has become an actor in his retirement from professional football. The exhibition will be on view through July 14, 2018. The Fine Arts Gallery is located in Cohen Memorial Hall at 1220 21st Avenue South, on the western edge of the Peabody College campus. Gallery hours through April 30 are Monday–Friday 11 am–4 pm, Weekends 1–5 pm; from May 1, hours are Tuesday–Friday 12–4 pm, Saturdays 1–5 pm, closed Sunday & Monday. Tickets to the March 24 event have all been reserved. More may become available on March 13 or on the day of the event. Admission and all events are free and open to the public.
Portraits are often deeply personal, displayed in private homes and clubs or in institutional headquarters. They are created to document individuals in a moment in time, though, making them ideal works of art to lead into a study of social or biographical history. AMERICA CREATIVE presents the life and work of Everett Raymond Kinstler, who turned 90 in 2016, and, specifically, how he has interacted with and rendered in paint other creative professionals, be they artists such as Alexander Calder and Romare Bearden, musicians such as Marian Anderson and Tony Bennett, writers such as Tom Wolfe and Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), or actors such as Katharine Hepburn and Christopher Plummer. Drawing together these portraits into one exhibition will shed fresh light on the work of the artist, on the genre of portraiture in American art, and on the interconnectedness of America’s creative leaders in the mid-to-late-twentieth century.
Kinstler drew for comic books in his early career in the 1940s, towards the end of the Golden Age of Illustration. Creating covers for pulps, magazines, and comic books such as Zorro, Hawkman, and The Shadow provided a unique foundation that would later inform his practice as a portraitist. He was tutored by James Montgomery Flagg, one of the icons of American art and illustration, and honed his craft of capturing action and emotion with an economy of line. In the mid-1950s, as the dominant aesthetics of print media shifted, Kinstler pivoted his career to portraiture. Though the genre is often considered historical, capturing a moment in a person’s life, his portraits are filled with vibrancy. As Amy Henderson, Historian Emerita at the National Portrait Gallery, writes in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, “There is nothing static or stultifying about Kinstler’s art because it is full of life. Somehow, his brushstrokes capture personality in sweeping gestures: his paintings are more character ‘portrayals’ in a theatrical sense of revelation than frozen-in-granite ‘portraits.’” He has become a master of the genre, with perhaps his pinnacle achievement being the official White House portraits of Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
Joseph Mella, director of the Fine Arts Gallery, writes that this exhibition “is a remarkable window into the lives of numerous leaders in the arts in America, and equally an outstanding opportunity to experience the genius of one of the best portrait artists working today, making it an honor to bring Kinstler’s own creative vision here to the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery.”
The exhibition includes:
- Thirty-one works of art depicting creative leaders including Marian Anderson, Tony Bennett, Alexander Calder, Plácido Domingo, and Tom Wolfe
- Loans from the National Portrait Gallery, the Butler Institute of American Art, the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College, the Museum of the City of New York, and the National Academy Museum, among others
- A fully illustrated catalogue
The exhibition will travel to the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, where it will be on view from August 11 to November 4, 2018.
The final in a three-part series on portraiture, AMERICA CREATIVE: PORTRAITS BY EVERETT RAYMOND KINSTLER is organized by the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery and curated by Joseph S. Mella, director, and Margaret F. M. Walker, assistant curator. The gallery extends special thanks to the artist, Peggy Kinstler, and Michael Shane Neal.
For more information on visiting the gallery, see Vanderbilt.edu/gallery. Visitors to the opening may park, free of charge, anywhere in Lot 95, accessible from 21st avenue south. Visitors to the lecture on March 24 may park, free of charge, in the Highland Ave. garage.