Maryhill Summer Spotlights Paintings of American Realist Richard Lack

Richard F. Lack (1928–2009), Trial by Fire, 1990, oil on canvas, 81” x 51”; Courtesy of the Lack Estate

A special exhibition featuring 40 works by Richard F. Lack (1928–2009), one of the most significant and prolific American realists of the last half of the 20th century, is on view now at Maryhill Museum of Art

“Richard F. Lack: The Interior Journey—Paintings, Drawings, and Studies” showcases a series of large-scale imaginative paintings by one of America’s foremost realist painters. Created at the end of the artist’s career, the paintings depict historical, religious, mythological, allegorical and symbolic subjects.

The exhibition also includes a selection of conceptual and developmental sketches and drawings, offering a window into Lack’s creative and technical processes as he fine-tuned the figures, expressions and subtle gestures found within the finished works.

“What I’m hearing from visitors is that they find the exhibition simply beautiful,” says Maryhill executive director Colleen Schafroth. “They are telling us that the exhibition is a pure joy to experience. Lack really is more than a painters’ painter—he is a modern master of paint—by any standard. His skill with a brush is just stunning.”

Lack’s interest in classical painting traditions led him to the atelier and studio of R.H. Ives Gammell, a well-known Boston artist with whom he studied during the early 1950s. It was there that Lack was exposed to the fundamentals of training based on French ateliers and began to explore so-called “imaginative painting,” – a term used to describe historical or poetic painting. In 1955, Lack traveled to Italy, Germany and France to study the Old Masters, particularly Peter Paul Rubens, who greatly influenced Lack’s style and methods.

In 1969, Lack established his own studio – Atelier Lack – where he continued the age-old tradition of mentorship and teaching methods passed down from the European masters of realist painting. Lack’s atelier provided a link to the artistic traditions of Europe that rapidly disintegrated after World War I.

Over the years, he trained a significant group of younger artists and his atelier became a model for many small studio schools throughout the United States and abroad. Lack’s artistic influence spread even further through his writings on the subject of realism at a time when the art world was enamored with emerging, nontraditional art forms.

Over his 63-year career, Lack created more than 1500 paintings, drawings, sketches, etchings, woodcuts and watercolors, including portraits, interiors, genre paintings, imaginative paintings and landscapes. He was a sought-after portrait artist who completed six portraits of the Kennedy family in Hyannis Port, Mass.

During his final years, Lack devoted most of his time and energy to painting The Interior Journey series of imaginative paintings now featured at Maryhill Museum of Art.

“Richard F. Lack: The Interior Journey—Paintings, Drawings, and Studies” was curated by Stephen Gjertson, with assistance from The Atelier and the Lack Estate. Gjertson is a Minneapolis-area artist who was a student of Lack and a former teacher at his atelier.

On view concurrently at Maryhill is a small exhibition titled American Classical Realism featuring work by other influential realists, including R.H. Ives Gammell, Robert Douglas Hunter and Samuel Rose, all drawn from the museum’s collections.

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