Wilbur Niewald: A Retrospective, 1951 - 2004
July 23, 2004 – October 10, 2004
Niewald, a Kansas City Art Institute professor emeritus of painting, has received national recognition for both his painting and his teaching. In 1988 he was honored with the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teacher of Art Award, and in 1994 he was elected to membership in the National Academy of Design. His work is included in numerous public and private collections in the Kansas City area, and in 1995 a painting of his was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
From May to November, he works outdoors, painting landscapes and views of the city, all from direct observation. The rest of the year, he is in his studio, working primarily from still-life arrangements, but also from the posed model. Although his studio is spacious with high ceilings and large windows facing the north, he works in a relatively small area with his easel close to his subject matter. He paints every day and at age seventy-nine continues to work with the energy and discipline of a younger man.
For Wilbur Niewald, to paint is to question the visible: to adjust and readjust with each brushstroke relationships of color and drawing until an intuitively felt since of “rightness” is achieved. His paintings heighten our awareness, inviting our eye to travel around and through the composition, buoyed by the clarity of the light and the transcendedt beauty of color, closely observed. Tempered by the 20th century conventions of abstraction, his vision connects the past with the present – not as a pastiche or an appropriation – as an affirmation of contemporary sensibility. This retrospective exhibition covers a period of fifty-three years. What we as viewers sense throughout is Wilbur Niewald’s uncompromising engagement with the act of painting. Although he has exhibited widely, and recognition has come his way, the prevailing passion and motivation for him has always been found in the work itself.
Professor Michael Walling (retired), Kansas City Art Institute.
This exhibition was organized by the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art.