A retrospective exhibition "Robert Vickrey: The Magic of Realism" opens at Fairfield University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery March 23


Image: VickreyThe Art News once marveled at Robert Vickrey's "hyper-realist paintings" placing the "supernatural and the super-real at odds." Now, Fairfield University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery presents "Robert Vickrey: The Magic of Realism," a major career retrospective exhibition, that opens Monday, March 23 with a reception from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The artist will be in attendance for the opening and the public is invited to the complimentary reception. On Tuesday, March 24, Vickrey will present an informal gallery talk from 12:30-1:30 p.m. The exhibition continues through April 26. Admission to the gallery and the talk is free.

The exhibition recognizes Vickrey's 60-year career as a living master of tempera painting and has been coordinated with fine art publisher Hudson Hills Press' publication of a 224-page, 170-color-plate volume, "Robert Vickrey: The Magic of Realism," authored by Dr. Philip Eliasoph, professor of art history in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Fairfield University.

Vickrey's concerns are distinctly 20th century and his poetical interpretations of childhood innocence and adults lost in the labyrinths of contemporary life have been featured in nine Whitney Museum of American Art Annual Exhibitions and awarded gold medals by numerous art societies. His egg tempera works are included in more than 80 of the nation's leading American art museums including works to be displayed on loan from the Whitney, Dallas, Brooklyn, Butler, St. Petersburg and Neuberger Museums. His portrait commissions of world leaders have appeared as iconic covers of more than 75 Time magazines. Original paintings of several Time covers featuring Abraham Lincoln, Walter Cronkite and General Moshe Dayan appear at Fairfield on loan from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

Vickrey was a celebrated resident of Fairfield from 1957-1973 and many of the locales in paintings of that period are recognizably local. Indeed, his painting "Connecticut German" depicts Fairfield University's barns.

As an enduring wizard of a haunting narrative imagery, the artist's name is often quoted in the context of other Magic Realists such as Ben Shahn, Andrew Wyeth, Paul Cadmus and George Tooker. Eliasoph declares Vickrey's work as the "fiercely independent work of one of its most unorthodox and even most daring inventors."

Continuing a 35-year engagement as an expert and advocate for the masters of American egg tempera and academic realism, Eliasoph has had a scholarly association with Vickrey since 1981. Vickrey uses the same labor-intensive technique used by Giotto and Botticelli, but as Eliasoph notes, "this Renaissance method of egg tempera is literally a ‘lost craft,' for which few contemporary artists could have the patience or ability to gain technical mastery. Vickrey demonstrates remarkable dexterity in his virtuoso handling of the medium."

The University has a lengthy history with the artist. When Vickrey was named 1982 Artist of the Year for the town of Fairfield, the University hosted an exhibition curated by Eliasoph; in 1986, it sponsored an award-winning film by Hollywood filmmakers Scott Vickrey and Richard Camp, "Robert Vickrey: Lyrical Realist;" and it acquired three paintings, two of which were donated by Philip and Yael Eliasoph and all of which are featured in the exhibition.

Continuing this celebration of the University's commitment to the visual arts, Open VISIONS Forum presents a lecture by Washington, D.C.'s National Gallery of Art Director Earl A. Powell III, in the Kelley Theater at 8:00 p.m. on March 23. University President Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., dedicates the opening portion of the evening to the presentation of the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. Award, given for Excellence in the Arts to Robert Vickrey. Following Director Powell's lecture, the Walsh Art Gallery will remain open until 10:00 p.m. The OVF audience is welcomed to view the exhibition.

This special exhibition was made possible through the generous support of the Humanities Institute of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Quick Center for the Arts and the offices of the Academic Vice President and the Vice President for Marketing and Communications.

For information about the exhibition, please visit fairfield.edu/quick or call the Box Office at (203) 254-4010. The toll free number is 1-877-ARTS-396. Tickets to Open VISIONS Forum are $45 and are available at fairfield.edu/openvisions or by calling the Box Office.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 27, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 230

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