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Richard Grosvenor: Newport's Muse and Mentor

July 13 - October 13, 2008


For many, the image of the artist as lone wolf -- pursuing a unique creative vision in solitude, is as iconic as Van Gogh's Sunflowers. But artist, teacher and architectural historian Richard Grosvenor says that in Newport, Rhode Island and many other places, nothing could be farther from the truth. Grosvenor's view of artistic creation as a shared experience is the focus of the exhibition "Richard Grosvenor: Newport's Muse and Mentor," running at the Newport Art Museum from July 13 through October 13, 2008. (right: Richard Grosvenor, Up the hill from Hanging Rock, 1992. Oil on canvas, 36 _ x 72 _ inches. Newport Art Museum. Gift of George Frost.)

"I paint with other people most of the time," says Grosvenor who acquired his taste for plein air painting with friends from teacher/artist Richard S. Meryman at Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts during the 1940s. Speaking from his home in Newport, Grosvenor pointed out that the spirit of artistic camaraderie, "goes a long way back in this neck of the woods. In the 19th century many great painters were attracted to the Newport area because of the terrific landscapes -- people like John Frederick Kensett and William Trost Richards. It was a community enterprise. They got together to paint and learn."

The tradition of creating and learning together continued into the 20th century when Grosvenor was becoming a major force in the artistic community in and around Newport. He and others oversaw the continuing development of the Art Association of Newport as it transitioned into a full-fledged museum. Beginning in 1994, Grosvenor rallied local artists to support the Museum through an annual "Wet Paint" weekend. Artworks created during a single summer day -- often outdoors -- are put up for sale through silent and live auctions and proceeds support the Museum's many educational and outreach programs. (left: Richard Grosvenor, Land's End, 2001. Oil on canvas. Lent by Christopher and Connie Hayes)

"Today's young people are painting in groups," noted Grosvenor. "You learn from each other as well as from an instructor." The long-time teacher and art instructor added with a self-deprecating laugh, "Sometimes it's better that way."

For forty years, Grosvenor taught art and architecture at St. George's School in Middletown, Rhode Island, retiring in 1995. For most of that time he was head of the art department. He also has been a mainstay at the Newport Art Museum's school, the Coleman Center for Creative Studies for years and instructs a course in architecture through the Circle of Scholars program at Salve Regina University. Born in 1928, Grosvenor turns 80 this summer.

Newport Art Museum Curator Nancy Whipple Grinnell said Grosvenor has been a tireless supporter of the Museum and the artistic community for decades. "Dick has been a curator, teacher, and policymaker at the Museum continuously for over 50 years." She also noted that Grosvenor co-founded Spring Bull Gallery, a cooperative working studio and exhibition space on Bellevue Avenue in Newport. (right: Richard Grosvenor, Storrow Drive, 1966. Oil on canvas. Lent by Brian Commette. Richard Grosvenor knew the Boston area well from his Harvard years. This painting was commissioned as an anniversary gift for the lender's mother to his father.)

Grinnell said that among Grosvenor's former students are many, "...finely regarded architects, artists, boat builders, historic preservationists and entrepreneurs." That role call list includes people like artists William T. Hillman, Charles Pinning, and William B. Hoyt; architect James Gubelmann; Armin Allen, former President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Preservation Society of Newport County and London-based dealer in European ceramics; and Henry DuPont, owner of Lorax Energy Systems, a proponent and supplier of wind energy turbines.

William Vareika of William Vareika Fine Arts Ltd, sponsor of "Richard Grosvenor: Newport's Muse and Mentor" calls Grosvenor, "...the Dean of the Newport school of art and the soul of the Newport Art Museum."

Most of the art works in "Richard Grosvenor: Newport's Muse and Mentor" are by Grosvenor himself but the show also includes contributions from some of Grosvenor's own teachers, family members and former students.

Writing about Grosvenor for a 2000 retrospective presented by the Newport Art Museum, Grinnell wrote, "Best known in Rhode Island for his vivid watercolors of the area's landmarks, over the years Grosvenor has honed his spare, sparkling technique to a quintessential expression. He loves watercolor for its spontaneity...watercolor on paper lets the light shine through, resulting in a luminous impression. It is also a medium that lends itself to on the spot studies, and Dick Grosvenor with his easel and paints is a familiar sight to many Newporters."

Grinnell continued, "Grosvenor began painting oil "multi-panels" in the early seventies...(H)e divides a painting among several canvases which are then hung at varying distances from the wall in an attempt to achieve an illusion of spatial depth...The prisms of light in many of his oils are geometric overlays, imparting an abstract element to his otherwise realistic views."

A tireless supporter of the arts and a mainstay of the Newport Art Museum, Grosvenor remains one of Rhode Island's most celebrated and respected artists.


Biography: Richard Grosvenor

Richard Grosvenor was born in France to American parents in 1928. He grew up in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island and attended Groton School in Groton, Massachusetts where he studied with Richard S. Meryman. Grosvenor graduated from Harvard University in 1951 with a degree in Fine Arts. He worked as a commercial artist before being appointed to head the Art Department of St. George's School in Newport where he taught for 40 years. Grosvenor is best known for his watercolors and multi-paneled paintings in oil. His work reflects the sea and its coast and, since he is also a pilot, he often uses an aerial perspective. He has received awards from the Providence Art Club, the Newport Art Museum, and the Rhode Island Watercolor Society. Grosvenor's work is included in community, corporate and private collections throughout the country and was selected for the White House Historical Society Calendar of 2000. In 2002, he wrote and illustrated Newport: an Artist's Impression of its Architecture and History.


(above: Richard Grosvenor, Barn on Poppasquash Pond, Bristol, 1977. Watercolor on paper. Lent by the Richard C. Grosvenor family.

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