|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|"Remembering Bill Sullivan: Art world mourns loss of landscape
painter": Obituary by John Mason, Hudson-Catskill Newspapers, October
Hudson and the world of art together suffered a great loss Friday when Bill Sullivan died at the age of 68.
“It’s a terrible loss,” said art collector Al Roberts. “We have had
three artists in Hudson — Edward Avedisian, who died a year ago,
Stephanie Rose, who I still collect, and Bill Sullivan — in my view
those were the principal artists in Hudson toward the end of the 20th
century and into this century.”
Sullivan’s works are in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of
Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Public library
and the Albany Institute of History and Art. He has been in countless
group exhibitions and locally, his works have been exhibited in a show
curated by poet John Ashbery at the St. Charles Hotel in Hudson, and at
Carrie Haddad Gallery on Warren Street.
“He was a very, very fine painter,” Haddad said. “He’s done a lot of work over a very long and successful career.”
Sullivan started out in the 1960s as a New York City painter, and was an integral part of the New York scene.
“His portraits in watercolors of people he knew from the arts community
were pitch-perfect renderings of a certain light and style that I
value,” said curator Geoffrey Young of Great Barrington, Mass.
But his introduction in the 1970s to Northern European landscape
painting and then to the work of Frederic Church and Thomas Cole
changed the course of his life.
Author Jaime Manrique, Sullivan’s domestic partner and biographer,
recalled that the first time they met, in 1977, “the New York School of
poetry and Frederic Church were the main topics of conversation that
The next year, the painter and the poet embarked on a two-year
exploration of all the sites Church had visited in South America,
starting with Bogota, Colombia. Sullivan painted numerous canvases of
such sites as the mountain Montserrate, the waterfall Tequendama and
the crater lake Guatavita.
By the end of this period, Manrique wrote in The Autobiography of Bill Sullivan,
“Bill’s New York School sensibilities had undergone a transformation.
His travels in Colombia and Venezuela had drastically altered his sense
of color — it became explosive. And Bill became deeply involved in
painting pure landscape. Landscape for him was no longer an attempt to
capture a slice of life. Instead, it became a metaphorical attempt to
make a spiritual connection, to find the soul of a place.”
In 1980, Manrique and Sullivan wrote a book, Church’s Travels in South America, that was never published.
In the 1990s, Sullivan inherited some money from his father and started
publishing books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, putting out books
by such writers as Edward Field, Albert Corn, John Larkin, Eugene
Richie and Roseanne Wasserman.
“He liked the excitement of working with authors and designing covers,” Manrique said.
“We will miss him,” Richie and Wasserman wrote in their blog, “his
conversation, full of news, plans, discoveries, and traveler’s tales;
his energy and encouragement; his company and his steady familiar,
In 2002, he moved to Hudson.
“His hero was Frederic Church, so coming to Hudson was the perfect
thing for him to do,” Manrique said. Painters like Church, Cole and
Sanford Gifford were the tradition out of which Sullivan worked, he
said. “He appreciated the beauty and the light and the idea that some
of the things he painted had been painted before, by them.”
Although he came up in an era saturated with abstraction, Sullivan,
from childhood, was always a representational painter, Manrique said.
“Even though there is a lot of abstraction in his work, mostly he chose
to paint the world, the landscape and the people who live in it.
“I think he thought of himself primarily as a landscape painter, who
also painted cityscapes and waterscapes and cloudscapes and that kind
of thing,” he said. “He was always painting: His idea was to paint,
Sullivan became a familiar face on Warren Street.
“We became really good friends,” Roberts said. “I’ve had coffee with
him hundreds of times. We’d meet at various coffee shops and talk about
art. When I wanted to know about the work of other artists, he was very
helpful, and had an artistic judgment of his own.
“I met artists through him,” he said. “Fellow art students — he would kindly share them with me.”
Haddad said Sullivan was “very generous. He would kind of point artists
in the right directions to dealers and people they should meet. He had
a lot of connections, and he was generous with those connections.”
In addition to the book they wrote together, and Manrique’s
“autobiography” of Sullivan, Sullivan published two of Manrique’s books
of poetry and reprinted two of his novels; and together they did two
“There was always an ongoing collaboration over the years,” he said.
“He was the most important person in my life. There was so much he
taught me and introduced me to. I knew nothing about painting before I
“His interest in so many things: He was an avid reader of history,”
Manrique said. “When I needed to do research, he would read and read
and tell me things I needed to know.
“He had a single-mindedness about being an artist,” he said. “He lived
for his paintings and to paint. I think I became an artist by being
around him. I wanted to emulate him, and writing became not just my
hobby, but my life.
“I think that’s what we had in common: He was my number one fan, and I
was his number one fan,” Manrique said. “Everything he painted, I saw,
and everything I wrote, he saw. We did it for ourselves and we did it
for each other, in a way. It was about the work.”
Submitted by Jeff Riegel
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