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 Russell May  (1921 - 1990)

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Lived/Active: Kentucky      Known for: rural building in landscape, mountains

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Russell May
An example of work by Russell May
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted April 2004, is from Jeff Loy, friend of the artist's family and collector of work by Russell May. Loy has spoken with the widow of the artist on many occasions.

Russell May was born in Floyd County, Kentucky in 1921 and resided in Floyd County until his death in 1990. Mr. May was a successful business man in Presonsburg, Kentucky, who also ran a sign-painting business. Mr. May also painted well-known advertising on barns across the Kentucky landscape.

As early as 1968, Mr. May, at the urging of his wife, Eva Bennington May, turned to painting as a career. He traveled to Vienna, Austria where he studied with Gerhard Nesvadba. While in Vienna, Mr. May published at least three prints on the European market from paintings he completed there. "Studying landscape painting with Gerhard Neswadba in Vienna", he explains, "was the greatest experience in my like." he said.

When he returned to Floyd County, Kentucky, he continued his painting and released an initial series of limited edition prints. Many of those early prints were of local landmarks. In 1975, Mr. May released his first print to a company in Lexington, Kentucky, and a number of limited edition prints followed until his death in 1990.
Mr. May was a prolific painter. He traveled across Kentucky (and other states) demonstrating his painting style to enthusiastic crowds. On many occasions, a "lucky" customer would walk away with the painting produced that day.

The subject matter of most of Mr. May's work came naturally from his Floyd County home and Eastern Kentucky community. Many of his oil paintings and prints reflect the natural beauty of the mountains he called home.

One of Mr. May's most famous oil paintings was that of "Butcher Hollow Home" in Van Lear, Kentucky or better known as the home of country star, Loretta Lynn.

As noted above, Mr. May died in 1990 following a struggle with heart disease. His widow, Eve May, maintained the gallery in Prestonsburg, Kentucky until her death in 2003. The gallery is now closed. The remaining original art pieces are owned by his three children, Kathy, Jane and Russell May II.
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The following, also from Jeff Loy, is from the Prestonsburg, Kentucky web site which featured information about Mr. May and his gallery which is now closed.


"Russell May was born in Floyd County in 1921. He died in 1990. He attended Floyd County schools. As a young man, he had a small sign painting business in Prestonsburg. He served in the Army in World War II. He married Eve Bennington and returned to Prestonsburg in 1951. He opened May Sign Company and May Paint & Wallpaper (a combined business). He raised 3 children in Prestonsburg.

The May Sign Company manufactured signs for businesses all over Eastern Kentucky, especially Floyd, Johnson & Pike counties. May began a second career painting landscapes in oils in the late 1960's. By 1973 he had sold the sign shop and opened May Art Gallery. He was a founding member of the Kentucky Heritage Artists. His original oil paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries and hang in private homes, restaurants, and state parks. Many prints are collector items. He most loved to paint familiar scenes from Floyd county that were close to home and close to his heart.

The Russell May Art Gallery is currently owned and operated by the widow of beloved local artist Russell May. Stop by and learn some of the stories behind the scenes. Art prints and original oil paintings of traditional mountain culture, including log cabins, churches, coal tipples, steamboats, Garfield Place, Hatfield and McCoy and Mail Pouch Barns are preserved for family memories.




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