Wilbur Niewald, ‘the ultimate artist’s artist,’ dies at 97 | KCUR 89.3

If you’ve walked in close proximity to a stand of pine trees at Free Park in Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, not significantly from the tennis courts, you’ve most likely viewed artist Wilbur Niewald, a shock of white hair tucked under his straw hat and carrying a mild blue denim shirt and blue jeans as he painted on an easel or worked on an etching.

Starting in the 1970s, he drew and painted from direct observation. In the blazing heat, in the freezing chilly, on sunny and cloudy times.

Niewald died on Saturday, according to family and pals. He was 97.

“He was the greatest artist’s artist, normally capturing the environment in the very best way that he could in every single year, portray outside no issue the climate or problems,” mentioned Julián Zugazagoitia, director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Wilbur Niewald, ‘the ultimate artist’s artist,’ dies at 97 | KCUR 89.3

Julie Denesha


KCUR 89.3

Niewald is mirrored in the glass of a portray propped up from the walls of his studio in the Livestock Trade Developing.

“He was in regular pursuit of perfection irrespective of whether he was portray character, the human figure, or a even now existence.”

Invoice Haw Jr., proprietor of Haw Up to date, a gallery that signifies the artist in Kansas City, reported Niewald “variety of embodied the notion of perfection by repetition.”

“I assume what it also did is it just built individuals really feel this ease and comfort that he is there carrying out this exact issue,” Haw reported. “So that is a genuinely sort of sad thing that that’s dropped. But it’s also type of attractive that it was there for so prolonged.”

Niewald was born in Kansas Town, Missouri. His connection to the Kansas City Art Institute commenced in 1935, when, as a 10-year-old, he gained a drawing contest at Blenheim Elementary University — and the prize was totally free Saturday courses for a 12 months. He also commenced using lessons at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Artwork a couple of a long time immediately after it opened in 1933.

Soon after serving in the U.S. Navy Air Corps throughout Globe War II, Niewald earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Artwork Institute. He was a member of the portray faculty for 43 many years and chaired the painting division from 1958 to 1985. He retired in 1992.

In 1970, Niewald’s function shifted from abstraction to realism after he returned from a painting journey to Mexico and New Mexico.


Julie Denesha


KCUR 89.3

Niewald stated he painted strictly from direct observation. He taught generations of pupils as chair of the painting and printmaking office at the Kansas Town Art Institute.

“I requested myself, ‘Why am I painting indirectly? Why really don’t I just glance out the window and paint what I see?’ And it was 1 of the most liberating, liberating encounters of my lifetime,” Niewald advised KCUR in 2012. “It opened up a total new environment.”

In retirement, he used hrs each and every working day, typically 6 days a week, painting outdoor in Loose Park or the West Bottoms or in his fifth-floor studio in the Livestock Exchange Building.

Artist Nina Irwin rented a studio on the similar floor as Niewald for 21 a long time and was inspired by his determination.

“I just experience so blessed to have labored with him all these many years,” she mentioned. “And he grew to become a pretty, really dear good friend.”

“He is just a remarkable force,” she included. “And I actually are unable to visualize it down listed here without having him.”

Niewald gained many accolades in excess of the years, which includes induction into the National Academy of Style and design and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Basis fellowship in 2006.

“How could these kinds of a mild and form gentleman also be a true fanatic? But Wilbur was,” Kansas Town Artwork Institute President Tony Jones said. “He was utterly devoted to two points: his household and paint.”

Jones added, “A wonderful guy, a good trainer. He was portray final week, just times ahead of his passing. He was the actual matter, and one of the best persons I have ever recognized.”

Niewald’s do the job can be observed in company and community collections, which includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York Metropolis and nearby institutions this kind of as the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Artwork, Kemper Museum of Present-day Art, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Nerman Museum of Present-day Art.


Julie Denesha


KCUR 89.3

North light-weight pours into the space as Niewald mixes paint on a perfectly-worn palette in his studio.

Nelson-Atkins Director Julián Zugazagoitia rotates the performs on his office environment partitions from the Nelson-Atkins selection, together with one of Niewald’s paintings, a 1960s abstract operate referred to as “Aspen.”

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wilbur,” Zugazagoitia mentioned. “I have so considerably admiration for the tenacity he showed in his pursuit of artwork, each as an artist and as a trainer.”

“I will not forget about the straightforward joy he took in possessing a food in Rozzelle Court docket and, of program, his steadfast devotion to his late spouse, Gerry. He will be missed incredibly substantially,” Zugazagoitia included.

Niewald’s wife of 73 yrs, Geraldine Niewald, died in February, in the house in Mission, Kansas, which the couple designed and designed in the 1950s. He is survived by his daughter, Janet Niewald, also an artist, and his son-in-regulation, David Crane.

“He was just constantly gracious and a gentleman,” Haw said. “It can be unquestionably the end of an era. There is nobody like him. There hardly ever will be, the world’s just transformed way too significantly.”