Theme/Style – Modernism, Surrealism, fantasy, figurative work, landscape, portraits, illustration, murals
Media – Oils, watercolors, pastels, woodcuts, lithography
Artistic Focus – Regarded as an “artist-philosopher” and, as one critic described him, “a painter of philosophy as well as being a philosophical painter,” Norwood MacGilvary painted a multitude of subjects in varying styles, but is often recognized for his daring surrealistic aesthetic, exploring themes such as the impermanence of life, humanity’s will to survive amidst the turmoil of war, and the individual’s inner struggle to find meaning in existence.
Career Highlights –
- Norwood MacGilvary was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1874 to American missionary parents, and traveled extensively with them throughout his childhood. By his early teens MacGilvary was back in the U.S., living in Virginia and attending Davidson College in North Carolina.
- MacGilvary later studied art and philosophy at UC Berkeley (1896-1897), and at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco (1897-1898). He then traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian with Jean-Paul Laurens, and had his first exhibition at the Paris Salon; he then went on to study under Myron Barlow in Etaples, France.
- By 1906 MacGilvary was back in the U.S., living in New York and Providence, Rhode Island and working as a magazine illustrator for Cosmopolitan and Harper’s, among others. He exhibited with the Boston Art Club in 1908, the National Academy of Design in New York and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1910, and with the New York Water Color Club in 1911.
- He eventually returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, exhibiting with the San Francisco Art Association in 1914 and at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition, where he won a silver medal.
- MacGilvary joined the Salmagundi Art Club in 1916, and on behalf of the club’s War Service Committee during World War I, he and others painted landscapes for military use in training gunners. He exhibited with Allied Artists of America, New York in 1919, and was a member of the Architectural League as a muralist.
- By 1920 MacGilvary was again living in New York, with a studio in Greenwich Village and a position as instructor in the School of Fine and Applied Arts at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. There was a solo show of his paintings and sketches in the school’s Art Gallery in 1920, and that same year he was included in the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s paintings exhibition in Washington, DC, and again in their eleventh biennial in 1928.
- By 1921 MacGilvary had again relocated, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a freelance illustrator and became a professor of painting and decoration at the Carnegie Institute’s Department of Fine Arts, serving as faculty chairman in 1928, and head of the painting department in 1929, remaining there for the next 22 years. His wife, Adeline MacGilvary, a writer, became active in the city’s Authors Club; and the couple and their two children spent summers in the art colony at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where MacGilvary was a member of the Rehoboth Art League and was one of the artists signing the “Doors of Fame” in 1939, after the League’s dedication of their building at Henlopen Acres in Sussex County, Delaware.
- MacGilvary exhibited with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Institute from the 1920s through the 1940s, including a one-man show in 1926; as well as in other group shows at the Carnegie Institute. He had a one-man show at the Woman’s City Club of Pittsburgh in 1923; and a one-man exhibition of MacGilvary’s paintings traveled through North Carolina, at Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Asheville in conjunction with the Federal Art Project in 1936. He exhibited at the Gillespie Galleries, Pittsburgh in 1934, and in a group show at the Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, Ohio in 1938.
- Following his retirement from the Carnegie Institute in 1943, MacGilvary joined local Pittsburgh artists in opening a gallery at 134 Stanwix Street, and he was elected president of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh in 1944. MacGilvary and his wife continued to summer at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where during the late 1940s he exhibited and taught summer classes at the Rehoboth Art League.
- Besides the organizations mentioned above, MacGilvary was also a member of the American Watercolor Society, the Boston Art Club, and the Allied Artists Association of Paris. His works are held in many public and private collections including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
- Norwood MacGilvary passed away in 1949, and shortly thereafter he was honored by a memorial show at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. MacGilvary was also included in the exhibition “Southwestern Pennsylvania painters, 1800-1945” at the Westmoreland County Museum of Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1981.
Selection of Works by this Artist
Bibliographic references are available upon request.