Clinton Blair King Biography

Clinton Blair King




Painter, printmaker, and musician Clinton Blair King was born in on October 3, 1901 in Fort Worth, Texas. A self-taught artist, he was the intended heir of his family’s candy manufacturing company but chose to pursue art during his undergraduate studies at Princeton in the early 1920s. Connections to leading artists and scenes in Texas and Santa Fe kickstarted his career and his name was synonymous with regionalism in those states. It was after the war that he began to exhibit primarily in Chicago, New York, and Paris.  

King’s formal, independent artistic education included study under Charles Webster Hawthorne (Cape Cod School, Provincetown), Robert Reid (Broadmoor Art Academy, Colorado Springs), and Randall Davey (studio, Santa Fe). His early work took inspiration from Impressionism and the early Cubist work of Pablo Picasso, but quickly evolved into the style he was best known for, vivid Modernist portraiture informed by his appreciation of Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera. King spent time as an artist in Mexico throughout his career, with his first solo exhibition taking place at the State Museum of Guadalajara in 1932.

Of note in the trajectory of King’s career were the lives and influences of his two wives, both prominent socialites and promoters of the arts. In 1927 King met and married his first wife, British expat Lady Duff-Twysden, a central figure of the Parisian "Lost Generation” and known as the inspiration for Hemingway’s femme fatale Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises (1926). After they were married, the couple lived in Santa Fe, Texas, Mexico, and New York, exhibiting King’s work as they went. Their marriage ended with Duff's death in Santa Fe on June 27, 1938.

King's second wife, meat packing company heiress Narcissa Swift, was mutual friends with New Mexico luminaries Georgia O'Keeffe and Mabel Dodge Luhan. They introduced the two in Taos in 1941, and the pair married not long after. Swift remained a champion of King’s work even after his death in Santa Fe, New Mexico on February 23, 1979.
Included among King’s many solo exhibitions in Texas were: Witte Museum, San Antonio(1933, 1955); Artists Guild, Fort Worth (1937); Texas Teachers College, Denton (1937); Elisabeth Ney Museum, Austin(1938); Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1939); Corpus Christi Memorial Museum (1947). Solo exhibitions elsewhere include: Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe (two in 1938, for watercolors and oil paintings); Associated American Artists, Chicago (1948) plus nine other shows at various Chicago galleries from 1941-66; Feragil, New York City (1949, 1950). Two retrospective exhibitions were held in Santa Fe after his death: at the Armory for the Arts (1985) and at Fogelson Library Center, College of Santa Fe (1986). 

During his lifetime, King's paintings won many prizes; among them: Annual Portrait Exhibition Prize (of Santa Fe writer Spud Johnson), at Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe in 1926; Carr Landscape Prize Art Institute, Chicago in 1943; Painting Prize at Petit Palais Museum, Paris in 1950. During his active career, his works were featured in 37 one-man shows and 18 group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. His group exhibitions include, at various times: National Academy of Design, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art Annual, Southern States Art League Annual Exhibition, Corcoran Biennial, Carnegie Institute, St. Louis Art Museum, Toledo Art Museum, Rochester Art Museum, Parish Art Museum, and many others.

Public collections that hold his work include: Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Library of Congress and National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington; Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Baltimore Museum of Art; Smith College; Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe; New York Public Library; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Biblioteque Nationale and Municipal Collection, Paris.

Information found on AskArt’s bio written by Fred R. Kline and other sources.