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Carroll Cloar

 (1913 - 1993)
Carroll Cloar was active/lived in Arkansas, New York.  Carroll Cloar is known for portrait, genre and surreal view painting, illustration.

Carroll Cloar

Biography from the Archives of askART

A painter of scenes from his home, both real and imaginary, and wherever he was at the time, Carroll Cloar recreated rural landscapes in a style combining realism and naivete with people, old buildings, and items that remind viewers of places from Americana childhood.

Cloar was born in Earle, Arkansas, a small cotton growing town, and he enrolled in Southwestern College where he earned a B.A. Degree.  He went to Europe to visit museums, and upon his return enrolled in the Memphis Academy of Art*.  In 1936, he began part-time studies at the Art Students League* in New York, where he was much influenced by teachers Arnold Blanch and William McNulty.

He created a comic-strip character called "Junius," which was a combination of Superman and Popeye, but "Junius" was not successful. 

Cloar's skill in lithography* earned him a McDowell Fellowship* in 1940, which allowed him to travel to Europe, but instead of going there, he went to the Southwestern United States and Mexico, a place he re-visited in 1946.

He worked in New York until 1953 and then moved to Memphis where he died in 1993.

Celia Walker, "Twentieth Century Painting in Tennessee", American Art Review, 8/2002, p. 144.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from David Lusk Gallery
Carroll Cloar was born on January 18, 1913, outside Earle, Arkansas.  He lived on a cotton farm with his parents, two older brothers, and an older sister, who unfortunately died.  Cloar was not particularly close to either of his parents.  He was fearful of his father, and later he would paint his father as a large and intimidating man.  His relationship with his mother was warmer, but still they were never very close.  Cloar's mother did tell wild stories that influenced his painting.

As a young child Cloar went to school near his home, then attended high school in Earle, Arkansas.  In high school, he won an art award from the James Lee Art Academy in Memphis that inspired him to pursue an art career.  In 1930, Cloar moved to Memphis to go to Southwestern as well as James Lee Art Academy.  He soon became overwhelmed with both loads of work, so Cloar decided to drop out of Lee Academy and continue with his English major at Southwestern.  Cloar began to feel bored with his studies, so he changed from an English major to a Spanish major.

Cloar decided he wanted to become a cartoonist, so he moved to New York to work and study.  He soon discovered that he was not meant to be a comic strip writer. However, Cloar did find that he had a talent for lithographs.  He moved out west and he ended up in Mexico.  While he was there he continued working on lithographs that were more about his life in Arkansas then of Mexico.  The Second World War temporarily interrupted his work, but he did paint figures on bomber airplanes.  After the war he returned to Mexico; a year later he moved back to New York.  There Cloar signed with his first gallery.

Life Magazine published some of his lithographs under the title of "Backwoods Boyhood."  The article was Cloar's first major recognition.  It greatly influenced him to continue with the theme of Southern culture, so he moved back to Memphis in 1955.  There Cloar ensconced himself in Southern culture.  He was also close to home which was a primary resource for painting themes.  Cloar was interested in depicting childhood memories because he was searching for his own identity. Through the use of his memory and photographs he recreated a mystical childhood.

Carroll Cloar's paintings of Southern culture bring a whole new respect, image, and perspective of the South.

Memphis College of Art, Memphis; Art Students League, New York; Rhodes College, Memphis

Solo Exhibitions:
2005 The Collector's Cloar, Pine Bluff -The Arts & Science Center, Pine Bluff, AR
Recollection, David Lusk Gallery, Memphis
2003 carroll cloar: notable drawings from the 60's, David Lusk Gallery, Memphis
2002 Dreams and Scenes: A Collection of Paintings, Drawings and Lithographs, Greenville Arts Council, Greenville MS
2001 Carroll Cloar: Beginning Points Revisited, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR
Crossroads: The Drawings of Carroll Cloar, Christian Brothers University, Memphis
2000 Works from the Estate, David Lusk Gallery, Memphis
1994 Kurts Bingham Gallery, Memphis
1993 Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis
1991 Retrospective, Memphis State University, Memphis
Kurts Bingham Gallery, Memphis
1989 Schmidt Bingham Gallery, New York
1988 Retrospective from Arkansas Collectors, Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock
1987 Schmidt Bingham Gallery, New York
1983 Tennessee State Museum, Nashville
Forum Gallery, New York
1981 Forum Gallery, New York
1979 Forum Gallery, New York
1976 Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis
1973 Carroll Cloar, Kennedy Galleries, New York
1972 Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis
1968 State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Alan Gallery, New York
1967 M.H. DeYoung, Memorial Museum, San Francisco
1966 Alan Gallery, New York
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis
1963 Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth
1961 Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock
1960 High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Group Exhibitions:
2006 Katrina Benefit, Lisa Kurts Gallery, Memphis
2004 Jackson Summer Art Salon, David Lusk Gallery, Jackson, MS
Work selected for participation in the US Art in the Embassies Program, on loan to the US Embassy in Damascus, Syria
2002 Art of the 20th Century, New York
A Century of Progress: Twentieth Century Painting in Tennessee,
Cheekwood Museum of Art, Nashville
1992 Southern Genre, Kurts Bingham Gallery, Memphis
Selected Works 1935 - 1985, Kurts Bingham Gallery, Memphis
1991 Form, Fantasy, Function, Kurts Bingham Gallery, Memphis
1987 Collector's Choice, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS
1983-84 Southern Artists, Traveling Exhibition, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Paul Greenberg, Carrol Cloar in Pine Bluff, Arkansas Demoratic Gazette, July 3, 2005
Lisa Broadwater, The Cult of Cloar, Arkansas Democratic Gazette,October 1, 2000, section E
Vanessa E. Jones, Tugging Delta Heart Strings: Eloquence of Cloar to join artist Legacy, Commercial Appeal, June 25,1995
Linda Romine, The Collectible Carroll Cloar, Memphis Business Journal, Nov. 14-18, 1994
Edwin Howard, Remembering Cloar, the Stories His Works Capture, Memphis Business Journal, April 19-23, 1993
Marilyn Sadler, The Art and Life of Carroll Cloar, Memphis Magazine, 1993, pgs. 46-60
Roberta Smith, Carroll Cloar, a Realist Painter of Rural America, Is Dead at 80, The New York Times, April 13, 1993
Frederic Koeppel, MSU Award Lauds Cloar for Work as Artist, Commercial Appeal, March 6, 1991
Frederic Koeppel, Cloar Art Retrospective Contains Riches Galore, Commercial Appeal, March 3, 1991
Edwin Howard, Accomplishment of Carroll Cloar: He Created a World, Memphis Business Journal, Feb. 25-March 1, 1991
Frederic Koeppel, MSU to Show Retrospective of Cloar's Art, Commercial Appeal, February 15, 1991
Carroll Cloar, Hostile Butterflies and Other Paintings, Memphis State University Press, 1977
Arkansas Traveler, Time Magazine, March 5, 1956
Backwoods Boyhood, Life Magazine, January 26, 1948, pgs. 79-82

Museum Collections:
Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock
Art Museum of Sunrise, Charleston, WV
Brooklyn Museum of Fine Art, Brooklyn
Butler Institute, OH
Carroll Reese Museum, Johnson City, TN
Cheekwood Museum, Nashville
High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL
Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY
Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
Rockford Art Gallery, Rockford, IL
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, MA
State University of New York, Albany, NY
Tennessee Fine Arts Center at Cheekwood, Nashville
Tennessee State Museum, Nashville
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
Whitney Museum, New York
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA

1978 Honorary Doctorate Degree, Rhodes College, Memphis
1966 Purchase Award, The American Institute of Arts and Letters
Honorary Arkansas Traveler
Honorary Phi Beta Kappa
Library of Congress, Purchase Prize
Butler Institute, Purchase Prize
1946 Guggenheim Fellowship
1940 MacDowell Traveling Fellowship

Biography from The Johnson Collection
Born in rural Arkansas, Carroll Cloar and his siblings inherited his family's cotton farm in 1928. Though he would travel far beyond his boyhood home to study, paint, and exhibit, Cloar's work consistently incorporated nostalgic images from his Southern childhood, often merged with dreamlike motifs, into powerful magic realist scenes. Freshly armed with a degree from Southwestern College (now Rhodes College), Cloar embarked on a post-graduation tour of Europe in 1934.

Upon his return, he enrolled in the Memphis Academy of Arts and studied with the artist George Oberteuffer. In 1936, he moved to New York to pursue additional art training at the Art Students League. There, Cloar's achievements earned him a McDowell fellowship which he used to travel across the American Southwest, West Coast and Mexico. While serving with the Army Air Corps during World War II, Cloar was deployed to Saipan and Iwo Jima.

Upon his return from the war, Cloar was awarded a Guggenheim traveling scholarship to fund an extended sojourn to Central and South America in 1946. Two years later, several of his autobiographical lithographic images were featured in a Life magazine article titled "Backwoods Boyhood." Following a yearlong visit to Europe in 1954, Cloar settled permanently in Memphis, where he produced stirring narrative paintings, often executed in casein tempera and acrylic paints.

His career gained national acclaim, with works included in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Brooks Museum of Art, and Library of Congress. In 1993, Cloar's painting Faculty and Honor Students, Lewis Schoolhouse was one of six paintings by American artists selected to commemorate the inauguration of President Clinton.

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Biography from Greg Thompson Fine Art
Carroll Cloar was raised on a cotton farm in Arkansas, and was inspired to pursue an art career in high school.  In 1931 Cloar moved to Memphis, Tennessee and studied English and Spanish at Southwestern University.  He also took a few courses at the Memphis Academy of Art.

Soon after graduating from Southwestern, Cloar moved to New York City to become an illustrator and cartoonist.  In 1936 he began studying part time at the Art Students League where he was heavily influenced by his instructors, Arnold Blanch and William McNulty.  He eventually grew tired of the city and traveled through the Southwestern United States and Mexico.  During this time he continued to produce work inspired by rural life in Arkansas. His style combined realism and naïveté with people and places from his childhood memories.

His work belongs to many important museum collections including: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; and the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock.

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About  Carroll Cloar

Born:  1913 - Earle, Arkansas
Died:   1993 - Memphis, Tennessee
Known for:  portrait, genre and surreal view painting, illustration