October 5, 2011

School of Art honors its founders with exhibit

'Self Portrait with Hat and Horn Rims,' a 1930 work, oil on board, by Walter Isaacs, is part of the show.

"Self Portrait with Hat and Horn Rims," a 1930 work, oil on board, by Walter Isaacs, is part of the show.

Although there were offerings in art at the UW as far back as 1862, it was not until 1923 that the School of Art was formed as a distinctive unit with the hiring of Walter Isaacs as the first director. Now the school presents an exhibit featuring work by Isaacs and two of the faculty who joined him at the new school — Ray Hill and Boyer Gonzales.

Titled Founding Faculty, the exhibit will be in the Jacob Lawrence Gallery Oct. 12-21. There will be an opening reception from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Isaacs was a classically trained artist in the European tradition, but he never tired of experimenting with the depiction of the human form, transitioning from realism to abstraction over the course of a nearly 50 year career.

This untitled watercolor, date unknown, is by Ray Hill.

This untitled watercolor, date unknown, is by Ray Hill.

Hill came to the UW from the Rhode Island School of Design, and during his 34 years as a professor of painting, became nationally recognized for his plein-air watercolor landscapes featuring the unique geography of the Pacific Northwest and venturing into abstraction later in his career.

Gonzales, an acclaimed painter, assumed the directorship from Isaacs in 1954 and spent his prolific career at the UW developing his signature style of color-based abstraction, which was displayed in numerous exhibitions, including retrospective exhibitions.

Although by no means a comprehensive exhibition of the talent that has populated the School of Art over nearly the past century, these three talents were critical to guiding the school to prominence in the Northwest.  In addition, their generous donations to the school made possible many of the endowed scholarships that the School of Art now gives to students.

Admission to the exhibit is free. The Jacob Lawrence Gallery, which is Room 132 in the Art Building, is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.