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 Arthur Rose  (1921 - 1995)

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Lived/Active: South Carolina      Known for: mod naive figure-genre, sculpture

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
African-American genre scene of gentleman listening to two children speaking, dog and toddler in foreground
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

A brief biography of Arthur Rose, submitted by his son, Arthur Rose, Jr :
The artist was born in Charleston, South Carolina on May 26, 1921.  He was one of eight siblings who attended the public schools of the city.  In November 1942, he left high school in the first semester of his senior year to enlist in the Navy.  He was active in the Navy until December 6, 1945, when he was honorably discharged.  He returned to complete high school, graduating in May of 1946.  After graduation, he enrolled at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. (He was the only sibling to attend school beyond high school.)  During those school years, he met and married his wife Elizabeth, also a student at Claflin.  The artist graduated from Claflin in 1950, entered New York University the following year, graduating with a master’s degree in art in 1952.  The same year, the artist returned to Claflin and became Chairman of the Art Department, where he served for 25 years.
“Until the mid 1960’s, Claflin was the only college in South Carolina where African Americans could get a degree in art.  Many of his students were poor and Rose was always there to lend a helping hand, often taking them home for meals, and providing them with art supplies.  Many of the gifted students who came under his guidance at Claflin went to graduate school and became both artists and educators.” (Source: 1995 South Carolina African-American History Calendar – Southern Bell 1994)
Commercial galleries in the south, and many other regions of the country barred African American artists from exhibiting their work, limiting access to and support from these and other institutions. As an alternative, the artist initiated an annual “Fence Exhibit” held along the front fence at Claflin during the mid 1950’s and 1960's to create an avenue for public display of his students’ art work.  In 1966, the artist entered Indiana University to pursue advanced studies, returning to Claflin in 1968 to resume teaching.
In 1977, the artist became artist in residence at Voorhees College, Denmark, South Carolina, where he served until 1985.  He returned to Claflin to serve as associate professor of art until his retirement in 1991.  “He was a one-man art department,” said one of Rose’s former students, Dr. Leo Twiggs (retired), Chairman of the art department of South Carolina State University.  “In his own unique way he has shaped the perspective of generations of black visual artists in his native state.  He has shaped their collective consciousness and through them and his students, his influence remains incalculable.” (Thomas Brown, “After ‘shaping perspective of generations,’ renowned artist Arthur Rose dies at 73,” Times and Democrat, 14 February 1995, sec. B, p. 1B.)  The artist died on February 13, 1995.
In his position as head of the Department of Art at Claflin University, the artist not only influenced developing artists, but also individuals in many other fields of endeavor. Many of these individuals were former students of the artist who were required to take art appreciation courses.  Many have shared how their exposure to art and art instruction, expanded their ability to think more creatively, and enhanced their visioning processes in their varying fields of endeavor.  They have also shared how the artist helped to expand their thinking, and lengthened perception of possibilities by challenging, encouraging and demanding the best from them.  The artist’s work, along with such details about his life, would be exhibited to serve as a concrete reminder of this educational function of art.

Biography from The Johnson Collection:
A South Carolinian by birth, Arthur Rose spent his entire career as an artist and educator in his native state, where he worked to overcome barriers confronting African American artists. Born in Charleston in 1921, Rose was one of eight siblings to attend local public schools and the only sibling to pursue higher education. Following a brief stint in the Navy during World War II, Rose graduated from high school and enrolled in Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1946. After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1950, Rose temporarily relocated to New York, where he pursued advanced studies under the guidance of Hale Woodruff, among other notable faculty, at New York University.

During his two-year New York sojourn, Rose’s Southern home was never far from his mind. Indeed, Charleston was a significant source of inspiration. Rose described the rolling sea and fluttering breezes of the Carolina Lowcountry—those natural elements constantly in motion—as influential to the development of his organic creative process, in which the final composition asserts itself, rather than having been preconceived. Known for his expressionistic sculptures, Rose nonetheless insisted that he was a painter first. His naïve figural and genre scenes are populated with subjects inspired by African folklore—from lithe gazelles to praying parsons and harlequin poets. Critics and scholars have described Rose’s graceful, sometimes humorous, forms as owning a light-hearted vitality indicative of the artist’s own carefree nature.

Upon completing his graduate degree in 1952, Rose returned to Orangeburg to begin a thirty-one year tenure at Claflin University. There, he served as chair of the art department and, following an eight-year leave of absence during which he was artist in residence at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, returned to Claflin as an associate professor of art. At Claflin University—the only college in the South where African Americans could earn a bachelor’s degree in art at mid-century—Rose went to great lengths to exhibit his students’ work. Because segregation limited their access to commercial galleries, Rose initiated an annual “Fence Exhibit,” in which students publically displayed their art along the front fence of Claflin. Though he retired from teaching in 1991, his enthusiastic efforts to create opportunities for his students, are not forgotten. In fact, many successful African American artists of the state, such as Leo Twiggs, continue to refer to Rose as “the Dean of Black Arts in South Carolina.”

In 2005, ten years after the artist’s death, Claflin University renamed their newly renovated gallery space for faculty and student exhibitions the Arthur Rose Museum. The following quote appeared in the program for the museum’s dedication: “Mr. Rose created an atmosphere in his studio/classroom that reminded one of the movement of the winds and waves that he experienced as a child in Charleston: the reassuring notion that natural activity was always occurring.”

The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

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