Wilbur Niewald

Wilbur Niewald, professor emeritus of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute, received a 2006 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York.

Niewald has produced a prolific body of work; paintings that are as inextricably linked to the tradition of painting and modernism as they are to Kansas City. Painting and drawing directly from what he sees, the cityscapes and landscapes evoke a place. But, even as Niewald pays homage to the modem masters he most admires, he honors his longtime connection to Kansas City For it was in Kansas City where he first discovered Cezanne’s Mont St. Victoire at the Nelson—Atkins Museum and, also, the work of Mondrian, which traveled to the Kansas City Art Institute as part of an exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Since the 1970s, Niewald has painted directly from observation: landscapes, portraits, and still—lifes. He says that being in front of something becomes the reason for painting, allowing him to get closer and see a thing more clearly. Whether his observation is focused on looking for the universal in, say, the vastness of a landscape rather than specificity of the Grand Canyon, or focused on one thing, not Kansas City but a rock formation hugging a hill or a nondescript building in contrast to the surrounding deep, green foliage, Niewald is guided by truth and imbues his paintings with passion and emotion. It is precisely this act of looking, the patience of perception and his careful, faithful observation of the things around him that distinguishes his art.

—Raechell Smith, Director/Curator
H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute