James McGarrell Biography

James McGarrell

American

1930-2020

Biography

Painter and printmaker James McGarrell was born on February 2, 1930, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He began to teach himself how to draw and paint at age twenty, after discovering books on art at the library while a law student at Indiana University, Bloomington. Inspired, he soon dropped out of school and took a job at a steel casting plant while honing his skills on paper and canvas. When he felt he had enough information to move forward, he re-enrolled at Bloomington as an art student and took a summer course at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine.

Upon graduation, he traveled to Los Angeles, California, where he enrolled in graduate school at the University of California, LA, participating in his first exhibition at the Frank Perls Gallery in Beverly Hills. He then received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Stuttgart, Germany for a year, which marked his first of many trips to Europe. He began exhibiting widely beginning in 1955, with shows in Los Angeles, New York, and France and Italy. He was selected to exhibit at the New Images of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1960, and he soon established an international reputation for his paintings and fine prints. In 1968, he was selected for exhibition in The Figurative Tradition in America at the U.S. Pavilion of the 1968 Venice Biennale. His extensive exhibition career took him to South America, Japan, and Europe, as well as throughout the United States. 

In addition to his fine art career, McGarrell had an extensive teaching career, beginning at Reed College from 1956 to 1959. He then taught at Indian University (1959 - 1981) and Washington University, St. Louis, from from 1981 until his retirement in 1992. Additional teaching position included stints at the International School in Umbria; the New York Studio School; the Roswell, New Mexico AIR program; and Dartmouth College,  as well as several artist in residence positions. Meanwhile, the majority of his spare time was spent at the studios at his family homes in Italy, Southern France, and Vermont.

McGarrell died on February 7, 2020, at his home in Vermont. 

Among the venues where McGarrell exhibited at the Whitney Museum (five annuals and biennials); the Carnegie International exhibition (1958; 1983); Museum of Modern Art (1960); the Dunn International, Tate Gallery, London (1963 and '64); Documenta III, Kassel, Germany (1964); USA Art Vivant, Musee des Augustins, Toulouse, France, among many others. 

His work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; the Portland Museum of Art; the St. Louis Art Museum; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Centre Georges Pompidou; the Hamburg Museum of Art, and many others.