Robert Vickrey (1926-2011)

Robert Vickrey (1926-2011)

Born in New York City in 1926, Robert Vickrey studied locally with Kenneth Hayes Miller and Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League before graduating from the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1950. 

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While many artists flocked to more conceptual movements in the mid-20th century, Vickrey painted in a realist manner and embraced the time-honored medium of egg tempera, which he discovered through a course with Lewis E. York at Yale. Egg tempera is a challenging medium; its fast-drying time doesn’t allow for blending, thus Vickrey exploited other means to bring depth and feeling to his creations, including scraping, scumbling or using sandpaper for a textural effect. His compositions often included solitary figures, especially children, rendered from an elevated perspective in seemingly deserted spaces, and usually paired with objects creating interesting shadows and reflections.

Despite the risks of being a realist painter in the age of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, Vickrey played an essential role in the renewed appreciation for egg tempera during the latter half of the twentieth century and went on to author two books on the subject,  New Techniques in Egg Tempera (with Diane Cochrane, 1973) and Robert Vickrey: Artist at Work (1979). He won many prizes and showed with several dealers during his long and distinguished career, including Midtown Galleries in New York from 1953 to 1976 and Harmon Meek Gallery in Florida beginning in 1970, and was invited to participate in nine of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s annual displays of contemporary art. He also exhibited with the Pennsylvania Academy, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, and with the National Academy of Design, which made him a full Academician in 1964. Additionally, Vickrey was a gifted portraitist and was commissioned by Time magazine to paint the likenesses of notable figures for dozens of their covers in the 1950s and 1960s, sixty of which are now in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery. Today his work can also be found in the National Academy of Design Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas, among other institutions. 

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