Ansel Adams is best known for his timeless black and white images of Yosemite National Park and other natural wonders of the American West. Few are aware that in the fall of 1948 he traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—his first and only recorded visit to Tennessee—in order take photographs as part of a Guggenheim Fellowship on America’s national parks and monuments.
Birdwell drew his primary inspiration from downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, where he grew up. Here, he captures the intricate interplay of geometric forms, varying textures and contrasting colors along downtown Knoxville’s main thoroughfare.
Born in Knox County (now part of Union County, TN), Lloyd Branson moved to Knoxville as a youth, where he is said to have been encouraged to pursue art by Dr. John M. Boyd, a prominent Knoxville physician. Branson’s prodigious talent led to his being nicknamed the “boy artist.” His first art teacher was portrait painter Flavius J. Fisher, in whose Knoxville studio Branson worked and studied from 1869 to 1871. After leaving the University of Tennessee due to its lack of an art program, he enrolled at the renowned National Academy of Design in New York and won a prize there in 1875 that enabled him to study in Europe. He returned to Knoxville in 1878 where his refined style set him apart from most of his fellow painters. At the turn of century, Branson’s activities were based in a studio building he shared with photographer Frank McCrary at 130 Gay Street. Download Branson's Full Bio
After spending most of his career as a missionary, Campbell came to Knoxville in 1893 to focus on landscape painting. This is a classic example of the small, intimate scenes of everyday pastoral life in East Tennessee for which the artist was known. In addition to his studio practice, Campbell was active as a teacher and founded the art department at Maryville College.
Clarke was one of the early members of the University of Tennessee’s art faculty. He found inspiration for his watercolor abstractions in the natural world around him. Some resemble studies of light and atmosphere, while others appear as if cross-sections of the surrounding landscape.
Now living in Kentucky, Conn is a long-time resident of Knoxville known for her flowing forms sculpted from various types of marble, here Tennessee Coral Rouge. While most appear abstract at first, her descriptive titles suggest narrative imagery. Conn is deeply inspired by the work of British sculptor Henry Moore as well as classical art and culture.
Born to a minister-father, Delaney learned to draw on Sunday school cards at church and were given art lesson by distinguished local artist Lloyd Branson. In 1930, he studied with regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton at New York’s Art Students League with a group of classmates that included Jackson Pollock. Delaney spent the next 56 years painting portraits, figure studies, and lively scenes of urban life in lower Manhattan.
Ewing’s later work, Sports Final, on the opposite wall, depicts a newspaper seller on Kingston Pike in Knoxville in 1949. The thick, bold brushwork, flattened forms and distorted features of the newspaper seller reflect Ewing’s growing interest in Abstract Expressionism.
Farr was a devoted realist painter who achieved recognition for his precise landscapes, still lifes and figure studies during the mid 20th century, a time when abstract painting was in vogue. He spent much of his youth in Knoxville before settling in San Francisco, where he worked as a figurative painter and influential figure drawing instructor. Farr was often referred to as a “magic realist” for his bright, clear views of a flawless, apparently vacuum-sealed world.
Guyton, who grew up in Knoxville, gained international attention for his unorthodox approach to painting, one that references hard-edged abstraction, minimalism, and performance art. His process-oriented works combine his own computer-generated imagery, paper from old art books, and inkjet printers, which he pushes beyond their normal limits in order to create works featuring an array of expressive “snags, drips, streaks, mis-registrations, blurs.”
Bessie Harvey was a self-taught artist from Alcoa who overcame poverty and a fourth grade education to become a nationally prominent artist. She earned international attention for her uncanny ability to extract religious, historical and imaginary characters from gnarled roots, branches, paint and cloth.
Hurst was known for his elegantly painted society portraits and meticulous still life drawings. He demonstrated early art talent and left Knoxville to study with George Luks at New York’s renowned Art Students League even before graduating from high school. Hurst developed a severe allergy to oil paint in 1959 and developed a new technique by combining watercolor, conte and colored pencil on paper.
Jolley is an East Tennessee native and one of America’s foremost figurative glass artists. He is well known for his expressive human and animal figures presented in various arrangements that suggest open-ended narratives. The artist’s blown glass forms are inspired by classical sculpture, modern art, and everyday life in the rural South. Jolley uses a unique palette of hand-formulated colors and often etches the surface of his glass with acid.
Krutch is regarded as one of East Tennessee’s first painters to specialize in scenes of the Smoky Mountains. Krutch earned the nickname “Corot of the South” for his soft, atmospheric watercolor and oil paintings of the mountain range that served as his sole focus. Totally untrained as an artist, he often applied thick layers of oil paint with brushes as well as his fingers. Krutch’s goal was to capture the changing “moods” of the mountains.
Leland has achieved a national reputation for his vibrant organic abstractions. For more than four decades, he has explored the process of painting with great discipline by restricting his imagery to a limited set of variables—tangled, symmetrically arranged tentacles of color. Leland is one of the earliest graduates of the University of Tennessee’s art program.
Nichols is a veteran Knoxville artist known for his welded steel sculptures resembling architectural structures or mechanical forms designed for an unknown purpose. He came to Knoxville in 1961 from Michigan as the first sculptor appointed to the University of Tennessee art faculty and the seventh and final member of the Knoxville Seven. Using skills honed through years of work as an industrial welder, he fused dozens of small steel panels into a cubist-inspired structure resembling a pair of conjoined, faceted figures.
Rain is known for his meticulous, haunting, magic realist scenes. Born in Knoxville, he moved to Nebraska as a child and discovered an early love of art. He traveled to Europe frequently and was deeply influenced by the glazing technique of Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572). Rain adopted a similar method and, as a result, produced few works and often spent as much as six months on a single painting. His subjects included everyday objects arranged in strange, eerily-lit, dream-like scenes.
For Higgs Ross, the Smoky Mountains serve as an endless source of artistic inspiration. Trees and Sky was inspired by her first car ride through the Smokies in the fall of 1959, three years after she moved to Knoxville to attend the University of Tennessee. The fragmented imagery suggests fleeting glimpses of the landscape from the vantage point of a moving vehicle. Shortly after her arrival in Knoxville in 1956, Higgs Ross became the youngest member of the Knoxville Seven, and remained active in the group until she returned to Middle Tennessee in 1961.
In his panel paintings, Pikeville, TN-based artist Andrew Saftel creates dense, colorful environments of painted imagery and found objects. Each is the result of a complex blend of techniques—carving, routing, embedding, stenciling, staining, brushing, and dripping—that echoes the natural processes of erosion, sedimentation, growth and decay.
Sprecher’s inventive compositions present unlikely combinations of images borrowed from high and low sources, whether motifs from famous paintings, architectural blueprints, or graffiti scrawls on a wall near his studio. Their original meaning and associations are often subdued, altered or lost in favor of their new role as formal devices.
Stevens was a pioneer of modernism in the American South whose abstracted paintings and pastels reflect his deep love of nature from the highlands of Appalachia to the lowlands and deltas of Louisiana. He traveled to the Smoky Mountains in the summers, where he painted primarily in East Tennessee and western North Carolina.
Walter Hollis Stevens was a pioneering abstract expressionist in East Tennessee and an early member of the University of Tennessee’s art department. He and fellow artist Carl Sublett spent summers painting in East Tennessee and along the Maine coast, using the landscape as the basis for their bold, improvisational experiments with color and form.
Sublett was one of East Tennessee’s most prolific and versatile artists. The Kentucky native came to Knoxville in 1954 and soon became an influential painting instructor at the University of Tennessee. He found endless inspiration in the Maine coastline, East Tennessee countryside and many other outdoor painting locations. Sublett shifted effortlessly from abstraction to precise realism throughout his long career and by the 1970s turned to watercolor as his primary medium.
Anna Catherine Wiley was one of the most active, accomplished and influential artists in Knoxville during the early 20th century. She returned to Knoxville following her studies and brought with her a mastery of Impressionism. Wiley specialized in quiet domestic scenes of women amid their daily lives rendered in thick, brightly colored paint.