Gregory Gillespie Biography

Gregory Gillespie




American Magic Realist painter, printmaker, and sculptor Gregory Gillespie was born in Roselle Park, New Jersey in 1936. Immediately following high school graduation in 1954 Gillespie enrolled as a non-degree student at Cooper Union in New York, and in 1959 he married fellow artist Frances Cohen, with whom he then moved to San Francisco the following year. There he received his B.A. and M.F.A. at the San Francisco Art Institute, and in 1962 he received the first of two Fulbright-Hays grants for travel and study at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.

Gillespie lived and worked in Florence and Rome for a total of eight years, becoming greatly influenced by religious Renaissance art and artists. During this period of his art career his style was highly detailed and borrowed from the symbolic religious themes of Flemish, German, and Italian Renaissance painters, using forced or flat perspective to depict contemporary scenes that resulted in semi-Surrealist compositions. He held his first solo show in New York at the Forum Gallery in 1966, and in 1970 he returned to the U.S.

The work Gillespie created from the early 1980s onward began to diverge from the path he'd very carefully wrought during his time in Europe. His painting style became looser and more abstract, and his subject matter was often purely Surrealist in nature - though he eschewed any such label. His prints often showed his signature clean lines and careful plotting of the matrix, but the imagery remained purposefully strange; an attempt, he often noted, to capture how he saw the world as a child in a tumultuous household. Among his most common themes throughout his career was the self portrait. 

Gillespie died in Belchertown, Massachusetts in 2000 of an apparent suicide. 

Among the major exhibitions Gillespie participated in were three solo shows at the Forum Gallery (1968, 1970, 1973); a retrospective at the Joseph H. Hirschhorn Museum (1977); the American Realism exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1981), which traveled to Virginia, California, Lisbon, Portugal, Munich, and Nuremburg; Rose Art Museum (double bill with William Beckham), 1984; American Realism and Figurative Art traveling exhibition, Japan (1991-92); and a major retrospective at the Georgia Museum of Art (1999), among many others. 

His work is held in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Joseph H. Hirschhorn Museum; Whitney Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art; Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond; and the Wichita Art Museum, among many others. A full CV of Gillespie's career can be found at the Forum Gallery website.