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Recent Deaths in the Arts

posted by Christopher Howard — Apr 24, 2012

In its regular roundup of obituaries, CAA recognizes the lives and achievements of the following artists, scholars, designers, architects, photographers, curators, dealers, filmmakers, and other men and women whose work has had a significant impact on the visual arts. This month was marked by the loss of the sculptor Elizabeth Catlett, the divisive art critic Hilton Kramer, the scholar and curator John Golding, and the art dealer Donald Young.

  • Cris Alexander, a portrait photographer and actor who landed a starring role in the 1944 Broadway musical On the Town, died on March 7, 2012, at the age of 92. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Alexander arrived in New York in the late 1930s with dreams of stardom. He photographed Martha Graham, collaborated on satirical novels about Hollywood, and worked for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine
  • Rex Babin, an editorial cartoonist for the northern Californian newspaper the Sacramento Bee since 1999, died on March 30, 2012, age 49. Babin was known for cartoons that tackled current events with whimsy, humor, and pathos
  • Toni Beauchamp, a Texan patron of the arts, passed away on March 9, 2012, at the age of 66. Beauchamp was an assistant director of Houston’s Blaffer Gallery in the 1970s and 1980s and was a proponent of the burgeoning art scene around Houston and the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. A collection of essays about Marfa’s cultural community will be released posthumously
  • Eliy Belyutin, a Russian art historian and art teacher, died on February 29, 2012, at the age of 87. Belyutin attended the Moscow Art Institute, and in 1954 he founded a painting school called the New Reality that encouraged an individualistic approach to art-making
  • Eleanor Callahan, a striking muse for her photographer husband, Harry Callahan, died on February 28, 2012. She was 95 years old. Eleanor Callahan was photographed throughout her sixty-three years of marriage, an arc that traced the couple’s early courtship to their family life with their daughter, Barbara. The stark, black-and-white portraits drew comparisons to Alfred Stieglitz’s famous photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Elizabeth Catlett, a figurative sculptor whose art practice was rooted in social reality, passed away on April 12, 2012, at the age of 96. Catlett drew from her own experience as an African American woman and expressed a desire to make art that would empower the lives of other African Americans and appeal to a broad sweep of humanity. She moved to Mexico in the late 1940s, where she was the first woman to head the art department at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City
  • John S. Chase, a prominent modern architect and the first African American to serve on the United States Commission of Fine Art in 1980, died on March 29, 2012. He was 87 years old. Chase’s notable projects include the United States embassy in Tunis, Tunisia. During his tenure on the commission, he oversaw the creation of the Vietnam War Memorial
  • Sid Couchey, a comic-book artist who was a principle illustrator for the 1950s Harvey Comics characters of Richie Rich, Little Lotta, and Little Dot, died on March 11, 2012, at the age of 92. Couchey also created cartoon mascots for national drug-prevention campaigns and for the 1980 Winter Olympics on Lake Placid
  • David Lee Craven, distinguished professor of art history at the University of New Mexico, died on February 11, 2012, at the age of 60. He was an expert in twentieth-century Latin American art, postwar American art, and the methodology of art history and visual culture
  • Bruno Giacometti, a Swiss architect and the younger brother of the artist Alberto Giacometti, died at the age of 104 on March 21, 2012. The youngest of four children, Bruno Giacometti remembered posing as a child for his older brother’s first attempts at sculpture. In 1930 he joined the Zurich architectural firm of Karl Egender, but it was after World War II that he completed his most important works as a freelance architect, including the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1952
  • Jean Giraud, the French comic-book artist known as Moebius, died on March 10, 2012, at age 73. Giraud was something of a national treasure in France, beloved by artists and the general public alike. An early success was the Wild West–themed comic book, Les Adventures de Blueberry (1963). Giraud’s fantasy visions led to work in cinema: he contributed drawings to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unfinished film Dune and to Ridley Scott’s Alien
  • John Golding, a British art historian of twentieth-century art with a focus on Cubism, died on April 9, 2012, at the age of 82. Golding taught at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, from which he also graduated, and was the head of the painting school at the Royal College of Art. He curated two seminal exhibitions for Tate Modern, Picasso: Sculptor/Painter (1994) and Matisse/Picasso (2002), and in his later years focused on his own abstract painting
  • John Griffiths, a British illustrator who designed a series of covers for Penguin paperbacks in the 1950s and 1960s, passed away on March 13, 2012. He was 85 years old. Trained as a painter and printmaker, Griffiths applied his technique to darkly outlined, hand-drawn covers that were beloved by readers as a companion to the text inside
  • Bernard Otto Gruenke, a stained-glass artist who created one of the first faceted glass windows in America, passed away on March 21, 2012. He was 99. Gruenke attended the Corcoran Art School in Washington, DC, and created stained-glass windows for churches, synagogues, and theaters throughout the country. For many years he served as the vice president of the Stained Glass Association of America
  • Albert Hadley, an interior decorator for high society on the East Coast, died on March 30, 2012, at the age of 91. Hadley and the socialite-decorator Sister Parish founded their company, Parish-Hadley, in 1962. Important commissions for the pair included the library at Brooke Astor’s Park Avenue home and the breakfast room of the Kennedy White House
  • Francis Hewlett, a British sculptor and painter who was head of painting at the Falmouth School of Art in Cornwall, died on March 19, 2012. He was 81 years old. Hewlett studied at the Slade School of Art in London and in the 1960s was inspired by Pop art to make large-scale ceramic sculptures of hands and other body parts
  • Robert Hoozee, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium, and a scholar of nineteenth-century British art, died on February 21, 2012, at the age of 62. Hoozee’s last exhibition at the museum was the critically acclaimed British Vision (2007), which offered a radical take on the history of British art, with an emphasis on underrepresented artists such as Stanley Spencer
  • Thomas Kinkade, a populist artist and the self-proclaimed “painter of light,” died on April 6, 2012, at age 54. His early influences were Norman Rockwell and Walt Disney. Kinkade believed that his artistic ambition was one that he shared with Disney: to inspire happiness through the dissemination of rosy-toned images of a bucolic American past
  • Hilton Kramer, the controversial art critic who championed his particular definition of modernism, died on March 27, 2012. He was 84 years old. Kramer’s career was kick-started by his impassioned rebuttal to Harold Rosenberg’s psychoanalytic theory of Abstract Expressionism. Kramer began writing regularly for Arts Digest (later renamed Arts) and was chief art critic for the New York Times before founding the decidedly more conservative New Criterion in 1982
  • Sergio Larrain, a Chilean photographer and member of the Magnum Photos agency, passed away on February 7, 2012, at the age of 80. Larrain often captured his subjects in a “state of grace”: children playing in the street, a portrait of poet Pablo Neruda’s house, and a series of accidental photographs of a couple outside the Notre Dame Cathedral that became the inspiration for Julio Cortozar’s short story “Blow-Up”
  • Mauricio Lasansky, an Argentine printmaker and draftsman remembered for his series The Nazi Drawings, died on April 2, 2012, at the age of 97. Lasansky established the printmaking department at the University of Iowa and bolstered the school’s reputation as a center for graphic arts. His attention to simple art materials (pencil, paper, water washes) and weighty subject matter singled him out as an innovator in his field
  • Simon Marsden, a British photographer noted for his Romantic subject matter and an attraction to the spectral dimensions of architecture and landscapes, died on January 22, 2012, at the age of 63., A keen critic of consumer culture and other ills of modernity, Marsden published twelve books of photography and inspired album-cover art by the rock band U2
  • Ralph McQuarrie, a conceptual designer who worked on the Star Wars trilogy as a primary illustrator and set designer, died on March 3, 2012, at the age of 82. McQuarrie’s rich sense of science fiction and fantasy aided him in subsequent work on the Battlestar Galactica television series and on the films E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Cocoon, for which he won an Academy Award
  • Brett Miller, the general counsel for the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, died on April 14, 2012, aged 47. After joining the Barnes in 2009, Miller played a key role in the foundation’s move from Merion, Pennsylvania, to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. His background as a curator made him a strong candidate for the high-profile position at the foundation
  • Jackson L. Narcomey, a Native American painter and printmaker and a member of the Muskogee Creek tribe, passed away on March 22, 2012, at the age of 70. Born in Oklahoma, Narcomey came to prominence in his community during the late 1960s for his oil paintings of tribal legends
  • Christopher Powell, a British architectural historian noted for his work on the architecture of Wales, passed away on March 9, 2012, at age 70. In addition to his work as a professor at the Welsh School of Architecture, Powell established the Construction History Society and served as editor of the society’s academic journal
  • Kenneth Price, an artist who helped bridge the gap between ceramics and sculpture with his shockingly vibrant clay vessels, died at his home in Taos, New Mexico, on February 24, 2012. He was 77 years old. A native of Los Angeles, Price had several high profile shows in the 1960s at the Ferus Gallery, famed for its stable of Pop artists. A retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is scheduled to open in fall 2012
  • Leonard Rosoman, a British painter, graphic artist, and longtime professor at the Royal College of Art in London, died on February 21, 2012, at the age of 98. During World War II he was appointed official war artist, an assignment that dispatched him to dangerous scenes of conflict to record what he saw. Rosoman’s work as a visual artist extended to exhibition design, most notably working on the Sergei Diaghilev exhibition in London in 1954
  • Al Ross, a cartoonist at the New Yorker for over sixty years, passed away on March 25, 2012. He was 100 years old. Born in Romania, Ross began his career in the 1930s working alongside his four brothers at the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s before joining the New Yorker in 1937. His arch sensibility and educated silliness were illustrated by sketchy line drawings of arguing couples, animals, therapists, and other denizens of the magazine’s cartoon universe.
  • Paul Rudall, a British artist, teacher, and illustrator, died on February 10, 2012, at the age of 91. Rudall served as the head art teacher at Chiswick Grammar School and Dudley Grammar School, where he influenced several generations of students. Since retiring from teaching in 1980, he lived in Bath, England and exhibited his oil paintings across the United Kingdom and in Germany
  • Charlie Stagg, an eccentric Texan artist, died on February 20, 2012, at the age of 72. Stagg attended Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia but chose to live and work as an outsider artist in the A. V. Stagg Art Studio and Wildlife Preserve, a “folk-art style, glass bottle and cement home,” where visitors were always welcome
  • Anita Steckel, a painter and feminist activist who worked under the radar for many decades, died on March 16, 2012, at the age of 82. Steckel was a self-proclaimed enemy of “good taste in art” who fought for the rights of women artists. She faced criticism and censorship for a series of erotic paintings that she exhibited in 1973
  • Eduard Steinberg, a Paris-based, Russian avant-garde painter who created mystical, geometric abstractions, died on March 28, 2012, at the age of 75. His childhood home in Tarus, a town near Moscow, was a meeting ground for artists and poets who were persecuted during Stalin’s regime. Steinberg saw his work as a synthesis of Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism, Russian icon painting, and personal religious belief
  • Barry Walker, a former curator of prints and drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, died on April 18, 2012, at the age of 67. Walker joined the museum in 1991 and was instrumental in establishing the print and drawing department and boosting the museum’s modern and contemporary art collection. Popular shows he organized at the museum include Alice Neel: Painted Truths (2010) and Singular Multiples: The Peter Blum Edition Archive, 1980–1994 (2006)
  • Eric Watson, a British rock-and-roll photographer with an artful eye, noted for his work with the Pet Shop Boys, died on March 18, 2012, at the age of 56. In the 1970s and 1980s Watson’s images were published in the magazine Smash Hits, and he also directed music videos influenced by art photography, such as Robert Mapplethorpe’s. Watson’s work, transcending its original pop origins, is now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, both in London
  • Isabel Brown Wilson, a Texan philanthropist who was a prominent figure in Houston’s art scene, died on March 27, 2012, at the age of 80. Wilson was a life trustee and chairman of the board of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Through her family’s charitable trust, the Brown Foundation, she helped to raise the museum’s endowment, to enlarge the collection, and to ensure the institution’s future stability
  • Donald Young, a noted Chicagoan art dealer, passed away on April 16, 2012, at the age of 69. Born in England, Young lived in Paris and New York before opening the Young-Hoffman Gallery, with Rhona Hoffman, in Chicago in 1976. Their gallery championed Conceptual and Minimal art; when it was later renamed the Donald Young Gallery, he showed video art by Bruce Nauman, Bill Viola, and Rodney Graham

Read all past obituaries in the arts in CAA News, which include special texts written for CAA. Please send links to published obituaries to Christopher Howard, CAA managing editor, for the May listing.

Filed under: Obituaries, People in the News