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 Philip Morsberger  (1933 - )

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Lived/Active: California/Maryland / England      Known for: mod comic figurative, abstract painter

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Philip Morsberger
An example of work by Philip Morsberger
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden:
Born: 1933, Baltimore, Maryland

Education:

1972 Master of Arts, Oxford University, New College, Oxford, England
1958 CFA, Oxford University, Ruskin School of Drawing, Oxford, England
1956 Bachelor of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute of Technology
1954 La Grande Chaumière, Paris, France
1946 Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland

Solo Exhibitions:

2009 Time Travlers, if Art Gallery, Columbia, South Carolinia
2008 Philip Morsberger: A Retrospective, Miami University Art Gallery, Oxford, Ohio
2008 Philip Morsberger: The Sixties, Jepson Center for the Arts, Telfair Museum, Savannah, Georgia
2008 The Human Comedy: Paintings by Philip Morsberger, Gallery 307, The Lamar Dodd School of the Arts, University of Georgia
2007 Philip Morsberger: Recent Paintings, SLM Projects, Roswell, Georgia
2007 Philip Morsberger: A Passion for Painting, Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia
2005 Romo Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
2005 Mary Pauline Gallery, Augusta, Georgia
2003 Mary Pauline Gallery, Augusta, Georgia
2001 Larry Evans Gallery, San Francisco, California
2001 Barkin-Leeds Fine Arts (Sun Trust Plaza Gallery). Atlanta, Georgia
2001 Mary Pauline Gallery, Augusta, Georgia
2000 Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia
2000 Mary Pauline Gallery, Augusta, Georgia
1998 Mary Pauline Gallery, Augusta, Georgia
1997 Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia
1997 Triangle Gallery, San Francisco, California
1996 Triangle Gallery, San Francisco, California
1992 Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, California
1990 Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, California
1988 Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, California
1978 Morley Gallery, London, England
1976 Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
1974 McAlpine Gallery, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England
1971 Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York

Two Person Exhibtions:

2011 The Mind’s Eye, Valley House Gallery, Dallas, Texas
2010 Dreams and Visions, Firehouse Gallery, Louisville, Georgia
2010 Spirit and Substance, Aiken Center for the Arts, Aiken, South Carolina
2008 Two Realities, Summit One Gallery, Highlands, North Carolina
2005 Degrees of Separation, Blanden Memorial Art Museum, Iowa
2005 Looking Back, Looking Forward: Norman Rockwell and Philip Morsberger, Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio
1999 Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio

Group Exhibitions:

2011 Dallas Art Fair, Fashion Industry Gallery, Dallas, Texas (Valley House Gallery)
2010 The Augusta-Columbia Connection: Six Artists from the if Art Gallery, Westobou Festival, Augusta, Georgia
2010 Within State Lines II: Five Georgia Artists, Museum of Contemporary Art, Atlanta, Georgia
2010 Painters Reel: Contemporary Painting in Georgia, Jepson Center for the Arts, Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia
2010 Painters Reel: Contemporary Painting in Georgia, Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia
2010 Color Fields, Forms, and Fractures, if Art Gallery, Columbia, South Carolina
2009 Compositions in Black and White, Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio
2009 Painters Reel: Contemporary Painting in Georgia, Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon, Georgia
2007 A Strong Vision: Thee Decades of Exhibitions, Wiegand Gallery, Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, California
2007 Art DC, Mary Pauline Gallery, Washington DC
2006 Nineteen Prominent Alumni Artists 1906-2006, The Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2005 International S.O.F.A. Exposition, Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois
2004 Highlights of the Collection, The di Rosa Foundation, Napa, California
2004 Freedom Sumer, 1964: 40 Years Later, Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio
2003 Inaugural Exhibition, Ogden Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana
2003 Butler Institute of Art, Youngstown, Ohio
2003 Crocker Museum of Art, Sacramento, California
2003 Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas
2003 The Felt Moment, Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina
2002 San Francisco International Art Exposition, San Francisco, California
2000 Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri
1999 Triangle Gallery, San Francisco, California
1997 San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California
1993 Baxter Gallery, Maine College of Art, Portland, Maine
1989 Laguna Gloria Art Museum, Austin, Texas
1989 La Foret Museum, Kyoto-Ku, Japan
1987 John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, California
1982 Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal, Leiden, Holland
1981 Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England

Awards and Honors:

2010 Signature Artist, Westobou Arts Festival
2008 Member, Oxford and Cambridge Club, London
2007 Honorary Fellow, St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University
2006 Artist in Residence, New College, Oxford University
2004 Augusta State University, William S. Morris Eminent Scholar Emeritus
2001 California College of Arts and Crafts- President’s Fellow Emeritus
1996-2002 Augusta State University- William S. Morris Eminent Scholar in Arts (Artist in Residence)
1996 Resident Artist, Wadham College, Oxford University
1994 Fellow in Painting, California Art Council
1991 Resident Artist, San Francisco Art Institute
1987-1996 California College of Arts and Crafts- President’s Fellow in Painting and Drawing
1986-1987 Chair in Art Practice (Professor in Residence), University of California- Berkley
1983 Artist in Residence, Dartmouth University
1978-1984 Professorial Fellow, St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University
1976 Fellow of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University
1971-1984 Ruskin Master of Drawing, Oxford University
1969-1970 Artist in residence, Rochester Institute of Technology

Bibliography:

Michael Granberry, “The Minds Eye,” Dallas Morning News, Art Guide, March 18, 2011, page 34, The Artist’s Studio reproduced.

Painters’ Reel: Contemporary Painting in Georgia, catalogue with introduction by Eric O’Dell, Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences, 2009.

Linda Louise Brown, “New Contemporary art: Five Artists,” Charlotte Observer, October 26, 2008.

“Philip Morsberger: A Retrospective,” Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio, spring, 2008.

Holly Koons McCullough, “Philip Morsberger; The Sixties,” Jepson Center for the Arts, Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, 2008.

Tom Mack, “Morsberger at the Morris,” Aiken Standard, May, 2007.

Jerry Cullum, “Art on the Edge in Atlanta: Morsberger’s Musings,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 11, 2007.

Christopher Lloyd, Philip Morsberger: A Passion for Painting, New York: Merrell, 2007.

Felicia Feaster, “Philip Morsberger: Generation Gap,” Creative Loafing, January 5, 2006.

Jerry Cullum, “Philip Morsberger: Cartoon Network,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 5, 2006.

“Castleberry Hill Artstroll: Philip Morsberger at the Romo Gallery,” The Story, December 15, 2005.

Sara Ivry, “A New Trove of Treasures,” The New York Times, March 25, 2005.

Degrees of Separation: From Figuration to Abstraction, exhibition catalogue with introduction by Margaret Skovo, Blanden Memorial Art Museum, Iowa, 2005.

“Looking Back, Looking Forward: works by Norman Rockwell and Philip Morsberger,” Arts at Miami, Miami University Art Museum, fall 2005.

Tom Patterson, “Nothing Finer,” Winston-Salem Journal, August, 2003.

The Pilot Hill Collection of Contemporary Art, catalogue with text by John Fitz Gibbon, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California, 2002.

Catherine Fox, “Abstract Expressionist has a Seriously Good Time,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November, 2001.

Jim Garvey, “A Visit with Philip Morsberger,” Augusta: The Magazine of Metropolitan Augusta, January, 2001.

Susan Landauer, “The Lighter Side of Bay Area Figuration,” American Art Review, September-October, 2000.

Ann Curran, “Andy Warhol and Philip Morsberger: A Carnegie Mellon Double Header,” Carnegie Mellon Magazine, spring 2000.

Jeffery Day, “An Artist’s 40-Year Journey,” The State, February, 2000.

Philip Morsberger: Paintings and Drawing from the Sixties, catalogue with introduction by Dr. Richard Gruber, Morris Museum of Art, Augusts, Georgia, 2000.

The Lighter Side of Bay Area Figuration, catalogue with introduction by Susan Landauer, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California, 2000.

Philip Morsberger: Made at Miami, catalogue with introduction by Dr. Edna Southard, Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio, 1999.

B.H. Walsh, “Morsberger and Warhol: Déjà Vu at Miami University,” City Beat, February, 1999.

Jeffery Day, “Amazing Abstractions,” The State, August 9, 1998.

Kent Kimes, “It’s Academic: Works by Philip Morsberger,” Augusta Chronicle, July 31, 1998.

Benjamin Carr, “Colorful Master at Mary Pauline Gallery,” Augusta Chronicle, July, 1998.

Ken Greenleaf, “ ‘Theater’ Puts Nine Painters in the Spotlight,” Sunday Telegram, July 4, 1993.

Mark Van Proyen, “Morsberger at CCAC and Rena Bransten Gallery, Visions Art Quarterly, 1993.

Kenneth Baker, “Philip Morsberger Masks Art’s Private Meaning,” San Francisco Chronicle, September, 1992.

Philip Morsberger, catalogue with introduction by Marcia Tanner, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, California, September, 1992.

Koi Nagashima, American Pop Culture Today, Tokyo, Japan: Seibundo Shinkosha, 1990.

Dorothy Burkhardt, “Morsberger’s Art Beckons Its Viewers,” San Jose Mercury News, 1989.

Gay Morris, “Morsberger at Rena Bransten,” Art in America, March, 1989.

Kenneth Barker, “Philip Morsberger/Rene Bransten Gallery,” Artforum International, December, 1988.

Clement Kortenback, “Kunst uit Oxford,” Leids Daghlad, September, 1982.

Kenneth Barker, “The Atomized Self,” Artcoast, Vol. 1, No 1, March/April, 1980.

Television Appearances:

1984 “Philip Morsberger: The Evolution of an Artist,” Minnesota Public Television, St. Cloud, Minnesota.
1969 “Artist to Artist: Philip Morsberger and Wendell Castle,” Channel 21, Public Television, Rochester, New York.
1965 “A Dialogue in Art: Louise Nevelson and Philip Morsberger,” WMUB-TV, Public Television, Ohio.
1965 “A Dialogue in Art: Philip Morsberger and Ivan Karp,” WMUB-TV, Public Television, Ohio.

Ballet:

1984 “Acid Rain,” Choreography by Peter Royston and visuals by Philip Morsberger, The Scottish Ballet, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Public Collections:

The Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Brasenose College, Oxford, England
California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco, California
College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota
Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio
Crocker Museum of Art, Sacramento, California
Department of Social Administration, Oxford, England
Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Jersey
Hope Collection, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England
Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Robertson, and Falk Major, African Inc, San Francisco, California
King and Spalding Collection, Atlanta, Georgia
Marine Midland Bank of New York, Rochester, New York
Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio
Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia
Museum of Contemporary Art, Atlanta, Georgia
Ogden Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana
Pilot Hill Collection of Contemporary Art, Pilot Hill, California
Principals Collection, City University of London, London, England
Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation, Napa, California
Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, Texas
SCAG- Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton, England
St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, England
Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan Associates, Atlanta, Georgia
Wilson Art Center Collection, Ohio Northern University, Ohio
Wolfson College, Oxford, England

Biography from Morris Museum of Art:
As a young child, Philip Morsberger was enthralled by his maternal grandfather’s ability to transform an ordinary newspaper photograph by drawing a hat, moustache, and eyeglasses on it. This simple act, performed for his amusement, is among his earliest memories, and he cites it as an event that inspired him to become an artist. Although his long and distinguished career can be traced to his grandfather’s spontaneous image-making, for Morsberger it is a disciplined act that he practices daily. The fanciful cartoonlike figures that populate many of his paintings are supported by an armature of careful drawing, sound academic training, and his diligent study of art history.

The younger of two sons born to Eustis and Mary (Burgess) Morsberger, he was born in Baltimore on March 17, 1933. His father worked for the "Baltimore Sun" as a proofreader for H. L. Mencken from 1923 until 1939, and he continued his career as the Special Assistant to the Public Printer at the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C., until his retirement in 1964. The "Baltimore Sun", left daily on his doorstep, was a source of inspiration, instruction, and visual fodder to the budding artist as he added his personal embellishments to the images that illustrated it. He copied comic strips, which helped to establish his lifelong love of drawing, and he quickly developed a vocabulary of gestures that evolved into a cast of characters who continue to adorn his personal mythology. His earliest influences included George Herriman, the creator of the comic strip "Krazy Kat", and Harold Gray, whose "Little Orphan Annie" eventually became the stuff of legend.

Morsberger was encouraged in his artistic ambitions by his teachers, and, supported by the sterling recommendation of his art instructor at Gwynns Falls Junior High School, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art in the summer of 1946. Over the next four years, he attended public high school and frequented the excellent local museums including the Walters Art Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art. He also took piano lessons at the Peabody Institute, developing a proficiency that he enjoys to this day.

In 1950, he began his freshman year at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), where he studied with Balcomb Greene, Samuel Rosenberg, and Robert Lepper, the teachers of Andy Warhol, who had graduated in June 1949. For the first time, he was exposed to the principles of abstract expressionism, which lacked the narrative quality that he knew, practiced, and celebrated. During his struggle to remain true to his distinctive style while learning and absorbing new ideas, Morsberger looked to the Bay Area figurative artists for inspiration. He left school in 1953, when he was drafted into the army. He was stationed at the Supreme Allied Headquarters in Paris, where he spent his spare time exploring the city and its museums and attended night classes at L’École de la Grande Chaumière.

On his return to the United States, he finished college and married Mary Ann Gallien. Armed with a BFA degree (1956) from Carnegie Institute of Technology, he used the GI Bill to enroll in the Ruskin School of Drawing at Oxford University in England. He embarked on a traditionally structured course of rigorous academic study, which included drawing from antique casts, copying masterpieces, and life drawing classes. His two years there were rewarded with a Certificate in Fine Art with Distinction in 1958. He also developed lasting friendships with fellow students, among them R. B. Kitaj, William Tucker, and Elemore Morgan, and he gained confidence in his evolving style, a hybrid of figurative drawing supported by elements of abstraction.

In 1959, the Morsberger family—which by then included a daughter, Wendy—returned to the United States when another Oxford beckoned. Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, appointed Morsberger to the faculty for the 1959–60 academic year on the strength of his application portfolio, which he executed during his years at the Ruskin school. His subsequent nine-year-long tenure at Miami University coincided with the divisive and turbulent decade of the sixties, and Morsberger’s work addressed many of the decade’s seminal events. The nation was in social and political turmoil, and he used his art as a way to express the personal and universal struggles of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, as well as the pain and dismay he and others felt over the assassinations of political and spiritual leaders. His expressionistic paintings often took their earliest inspiration from photographs that appeared in various periodical publications. For example, when he learned of the assassination of President Kennedy, he immediately began a painting of it, but the photographs that appeared in "Life" magazine a few days later led him to rework the painting based on those photographs. The finished work is now in the collection of the Butler Institute of American Art.

During this period, Morsberger’s work chronicled events and his sense of personal agony and outrage. In addition to his work as a faculty member and a working artist, Morsberger hosted "Dialogues in Art", a television series produced and broadcast by the university’s station, which consisted of eighteen programs featuring his interviews with artist Louise Nevelson, pioneering art dealer Ivan Karp, and well-known collectors and photographers, as well as discussions of touring exhibitions.

Morsberger immersed himself in life at the university. He starred in a summer theater production and served as the director of the Miami University art gallery, where he presented exhibitions of contemporary art borrowed from New York galleries and private collectors. His own work—portraits of friends, family, and faculty members, and his distinctive commentary on current events—was featured in five solo exhibitions and numerous juried exhibitions. Among the awards and accolades he received was the 1965 Dorsey Award from the Oxford chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for his courage in depicting the nationwide struggle of the time over civil rights. During this period, a second child, Robert, was born.

In 1971, the family returned to England when Morsberger was appointed the Ruskin Master of Drawing at Oxford, the sixth artist and first American to hold this prestigious position. During his second Oxford period, the artist and his work underwent a profound change. He began experimenting with a more abstract style. He left behind the social realist images inspired by current events explored in the media and began a series of abstract “mindscapes,” devoid of figures, that utilized a vibrant palette and were more attuned to landscapes. He also converted to Catholicism. The irony of this period is that his work became highly abstract and vividly colored while he was teaching students the fundamentals of drawing in a conservative academic environment. Morsberger's thirteen-year tenure as the Ruskin Master coincided with his return to the exploration of the cartoon images that formed his earliest inspiration.

He embarked on a series of paintings that were dependent on chance—that is, in aleatoric fashion, his use of color was determined by a literal roll of dice. He combined images that were part of his personal mythology with vivid coloration, often using colors directly from the tube. His painting style had come full circle, and he was using all of his training and artistic influences in a unique format that was best described as a hybrid of figurative drawing and abstraction. In addition to his teaching duties at the Ruskin School and a demanding exhibition schedule of his own work, Morsberger oversaw a new program that led to the establishment of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

The Morsberger family returned to the United States when he was named Artist-in-Residence at Dartmouth College in 1983, and in 1986 he was appointed Chair in Art Practice at the University of California at Berkeley. From 1987 until 1996, he was the President’s Fellow in Painting at the California College of Arts and Crafts. In 1996, he was appointed as the William S. Morris Eminent Scholar in Art at Augusta State University. He currently resides in Augusta, Georgia, where he enjoys emeritus status.

Morsberger’s paintings are usually autobiographical and contain fragments of dreams and memories. Text often faintly appears beneath the surface, and many times, paintings change as he works on them over the course of weeks, months, or years. An avid reader and music lover, the artist has likened his love of daily painting to a form of prayer. In 2003, he revisited the 1964 abduction and murder of three voter registration volunteers—Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman—when he produced "Missing (No. 3)", executed in an earlier style that was recently described as being “at the crossroads of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.”

Philip Morsberger’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio; Crocker Museum of Art, Sacramento, California; Hood Museum at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio; Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia; Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana; Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California; San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California.


Further Reading:

Gruber, J. Richard. Philip Morsberger: Paintings and Drawings from the Sixties. Augusta, Georgia: Morris Museum of Art, 2000.

Philip Morsberger: Made at Miami, Paintings and Drawings from the Sixties. Oxford, Ohio: Miami University Art Museum, 1999.

Karen Towers Klacsmann
Adjunct Assistant Curator for Research
Morris Museum of Art

Biography from Butler Institute of American Art:
The Butler Institute of American Art owns approximately 56 works by Mr. Morsberger; including some of his important works from the 1960's.

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