Robert Vickrey: The Magic of Realism

August 10 - October 6, 2013

John Hrehov, IPFW Professor of Fine Arts, will present a public lecture on Vickrey, magic realism, and the ancient technique of egg tempera on October 3 at 6:30pm. Free for FWMoA Members / $5 non-members

Trained in the laborious, Renaissance-era technique of egg tempera painting, Robert Vickrey fused his technical ability to render precise detail with his passion for expressionism and film noir to create hyper-real scenes haunted by an atmosphere of mystery and tension.  Painting on primed masonite panels, Mr. Vickrey began fusing realism and surrealism in city scenes that showed children making chalk marks on the sidewalk, nuns walking down labyrinthine streets or adolescents caught in a web of luminous halos and shadows cast by bicycle spokes. This retrospective exhibition, organized shortly after Mr. Vickrey's death last year in his Naples, Florida studio, presents a brilliant array of his best work created over his illustrious, sixty-year career.

Robert Vickrey became one of America's most notable "Magic Realist" artists and rose to prominence as a master of the egg tempera medium in the mid-century. Born in Manhattan, Vickrey spent most of his early career in the city after receiving a BFA in 1950 from the Yale School of Fine Arts. 

"I graduated in 1950 when Yale's art school jumped from worshipping Botticelli to bowing down to the Box and Cube - I was lucky to escape to New York that year!" 

Strongly influenced by his teachers Reginald Marsh and Kenneth Hays Miller at the Art Students League, Vickrey depicted the lost innocence of urban youth making chalk graffiti marks on Manhattan sidewalks, eerie street signs, manhole covers, and pavement markings indicating a No Exit' sense of a Camus or Sartre landscape, nuns in pristine habits lost in post-Hiroshima labyrinths, and a endless stream of adolescents caught in a web of luminous halos and sinister shadows projected from the distorted spokes of bicycle wheels. 

ARTnews recognized his early genius stating in 1951: "Vickrey is an exceptional technician" and the New York Times also noted his arrival on the scene the same year: "Robert Vickrey lets a meticulous technique and a realistic style serve a fantastic imagination. Full of obliquely expressed sympathy for the human situation in vivid and original ways, they symbolize loneliness or hostility or simply the pains of growing up." 

Generally accepted as the single artist who has done the most for the egg tempera medium in an era of abstraction - including writing two books on the subject many years ago, Vickrey has 60 of his portraits in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute's National Portrait Gallery, with 80 total used on the cover of TIME from 1957 to 1968.


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