Vance Kirkland

Chronology for Vance Kirkland (1904–1981)

1904 Born November 3rd in Convoy, Ohio, a small country town west of Cleveland, near the Indiana border.
1923–1928 Attended the Cleveland School of Art, Cleveland, Ohio. On June 1, 1928, he received a diploma in painting and a Bachelor of Education in Art degree (BEA).
1926–1928 Attended Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and Cleveland School of Education. He was sent his Certification by the Department of Education, State of Ohio, May 29, 1929.
1926 May: After a professor failed him in his freshman watercolor class (1923–1924), Kirkland was awarded first prize in watercolor in his junior year at the Cleveland School of Art for his The Old Barn, Convoy, Ohio, 1926 [inventory 1926.01; Collection of Kirkland Museum]. His freshman professor criticized Kirkland for putting colors in landscapes that were not there (the Fauvists did that twenty years earlier but it didn’t fly in Cleveland in 1924); he also said Kirkland’s colors were fighting. Kirkland responded that fighting colors made the painting more interesting but to no avail. Notably, Kirkland’s high school in the little country town of Convoy had no art instruction, so he was entirely self-trained when he entered the prestigious Cleveland School of Art. In his ensuing career, Kirkland went on to put colors that were not there (in natural landscapes) into his surrealist paintings (1939–1954). And he used fighting colors in his paintings for the last eighteen years of his career (1964–1981). And this approach does indeed make his paintings more interesting and more unique! In an interview, Vance noted, “Bill Eastman was the most supportive teacher I had and always encouraged my most errant paintings. It was he who said of the instructor who flunked me, ‘Oh well, but you will go so much farther than that teacher.’ ”
1927 May: Kirkland was again awarded first prize in watercolor in his senior year at the Cleveland School of Art for his The Brewery (Ohio), 1927 [inventory no. 1927.06; Collection of Kirkland Museum].
1927 May Show, Cleveland Museum of Art: Kirkland won an honorable mention for his watercolor painting The Brewery (Ohio), 1927 [as above]. He was the only student up to this time to win a prize at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
1928 Kirkland took a painting trip to New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado (including Mesa Verde).
1929 January 3: Arrived in Denver to become the founding Director of the current School of Art at the University of Denver, with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The school was originally called the Chappell School of Art because it was located in Chappell House at 13th Avenue and Logan Street on the top floor. The first and second floors served as quarters for the Denver Art Museum at that time.
1929 Kirkland signed on to become a charter member of the Denver Artists Guild, founded in May of 1928. He arrived in Denver in January of 1929 and must have been added to the list of founders after his arrival. There were fifty-two founding artists (and twenty-three patrons to help fund exhibitions); the three principal organizers were artists Albert Bancroft, Dean Babcock and David Spivak. See entry under 1948 when fifteen modernist artists, including Kirkland, staged a competing exhibition with the still conservative Denver Artists Guild at the Denver Art Museum.
1929–1971 Denver Art Museum included Kirkland in its Western Annual exhibitions for twenty-nine consecutive shows, 1929–1957; then additionally in that exhibition 1964, 1966, 1968 and 1971.
1930–1946 The Art Institute of Chicago included Kirkland in its International Exhibition of Watercolors, Pastels, Drawings and Monotypes exhibitions for seventeen consecutive shows, 1930–1946. His watercolors were considered that good. Kirkland was also included in its prestigious 1947–1948 Abstract and Surrealist American Art show with a surrealist watercolor (see entry under that date).
1932 In June, Kirkland left the University of Denver because the university decided not to give art courses full academic recognition toward a degree, which was the original agreement. He intended to paint full time, but his students prevailed upon him to also continue to teach. He then established the Kirkland School of Art at 1311 Pearl Street in Denver, where classes were accredited by the University of Colorado, Denver Extension (UCD), 1933–1946, thereby founding the Art School of UCD—his third art school by age twenty-eight.
1932–1942 Kirkland was included periodically in the Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition at the Kansas City Art Institute: 1932, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942.
1940 Kirkland began to give salon recitals and chamber music concerts (until 1959) at his studio, particularly to introduce people to modern music such as Barber, Bartók, Hindemith, Ives, Janacek, Mahler, Milhaud, Nielsen, Piston, Prokofiev and many others. He coordinated his concerts with the Allied Arts, an organization founded in 1920 in Denver that generally gave concerts at Chappell House. Kirkland had a slightly larger space, and he hosted some of the Allied Arts “Moments Musicales” evenings at his studio. He helped endorse the grant for Orville Moore, after whom the vocal competition is now named.
1940–1950 Kirkland was included periodically in California Watercolor Society exhibitions: 1940, 1943, 1944, 1945 (all at the Los Angeles County Museum), 1946 and 1948 (Riverside Museum, NY), 1948 (also at Grand Central Station NY and Pasadena Art Institute), 1950 (Pasadena Art Institute).
1941 Became President of the Denver Artists Guild for a year term, 1941–1942. Kirkland was one of fifty-two founding artists, and in 1948 would be one of the fifteen modernist artists in a competing exhibition at the Denver Art Museum with the still conservative Denver Artists Guild (see entry under 1948).
1941 July 26: Married Anne Fox Oliphant Olson, a librarian. They had no children and were able to travel widely. They remained married for twenty-eight years until she died February 3, 1970.
1942 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Kirkland is included in the Artists for Victory: Exhibition of Contemporary American Art.
1942–1965 Served at the Denver Art Museum: Curator of American and European Art (various times and 1953–1958), Honorary Curator of Contemporary Art (1958–1965); also member of the Board of Trustees (January 1944–1956), Chairman of the Accessions Committee, 1943–1953 (appointed member 1942), member of the Exhibition Committee (starting April 1944), Honorary Curator of Painting and Sculpture (1955–1958).
1945 Museum of Modern Art, New York: Kirkland was included in the Survey of Romantic Painting.
1946–1957 Kirkland was shown at the prestigious New York gallery Knoedler & Co., receiving three one-person shows (1946, 1948 and 1952) and a co-show with Bernard Buffet (1952).
1946–1969 Returned as Director of the School of Art at the University of Denver. He was also appointed Chairman of the Division of Arts and Humanities for the College of Art and Sciences (1946–1955) and Professor of Painting (1946–1969). He served on committees of Honorary Degrees, of Curriculum and of Budget.
1947–1948 November 6, 1947 to January 11, 1948: Kirkland included, with a surrealist painting, in the Abstract and Surrealist American Art exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago, with a 64-page catalog of a who’s who of American art.
1947–1959 Member, Board of Trustees, Gilpin County Arts Association, Central City, Colorado.
1948 Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska: Kirkland was included in the Six State Annual; 1956 he was included in the 4th Midwest Biennial; 1978 he was included in the traveling exhibition American Masters in the West: Selections from the Anschutz Collection.
1948–1949 December 3, 1948–January 1, 1949: A widely publicized and landmark exhibition for modernism in Colorado, 15 Colorado Artists, was given at the Denver Art Museum (Chappell House Branch, 1300 Logan Street). Fifteen artists broke from the conservative Denver Artists Guild (founded in 1928, with Kirkland one of the original fifty-two founders). Each group was given an exhibition, across from one another simultaneously, in the same building. The 15 were, alphabetically, Don Allen, John Billmyer, Marion Buchan, Jean Charlot, Mina Conant, Angelo di Benedetto, Eo Kirchner, Vance Kirkland, Moritz Krieg, Duard Marshall, Louise Ronnebeck, William Sanderson, Paul K. Smith, J. Richard Sorby and Frank Vavra. Subsequently many other artists joined the 15 until the group disbanded about 1970. Kirkland stated that it was important to establish that modern art was being done in Colorado, as well as exceptional realism, impressionism and regionalism by the Denver Artists Guild and other earlier artists.
1954–1959 Member, Board of Trustees, Allied Arts, Denver, Colorado.
1954 Chairman, Museum Committee, Central City Opera Association, Central City, Colorado.
1954 Kirkland was included in the Reality and Fantasy 1900–1954 exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, with a fifty-seven-page catalog.
1957 Received the “University Lecturer” Award, the highest award of the University of Denver.
1958 President, Board of Trustees, Allied Arts.
1960 Kirkland took a sabbatical from the University of Denver and painted for 6 months in Italy, culminating in an exhibition at the Galleria Schneider in Rome near the Spanish Steps. He completed 41 paintings for the year.
1962 Surrealism, Denver Art Museum: Kirkland included with Dali, de Chirico, Ernst, Klee, Magritte, Tanguy.
1969 June: He retired and was appointed Professor of Art Emeritus, University of Denver. At this time, there were more than 500 students taking art courses, making the School of Art the largest undergraduate school at the university.
1969 September: Kirkland received a bad blood transfusion in the hospital when having his gall bladder removed, giving him hepatitis B, which killed him in eleven years. During those eleven years, he nearly died several times but continued to paint in the building he had used, since 1932, for the Kirkland School of Art at 13th Avenue and Pearl Street (now known as Vance Kirkland’s Studio & Art School and partly containing the collections of Kirkland Museum). Vance and his wife, Anne, lived in a house five blocks to the south at 8th & Pearl. The house is still there and remains a private residence.
1970 Vance’s wife, Anne, died February 3.
1971 Received the State of Colorado Arts and Humanities Award.
1972 Honored by the Denver Art Museum as receiving the first solo exhibition in their new building designed by Gio Ponti and James Sudler.
1976–1978 Kirkland was included in the six-museum traveling exhibition American Masters in the West: Selections from the Anschutz Collection (El Paso Museum of Art, Texas; Phoenix Art Museum; Glenbow-Alberta Institute Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, California; University Art Museum, Austin, Texas; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska).
1978 The Denver Center for the Performing Arts purchased a large Kirkland painting, which was the first art work installed in the new Boettcher Concert Hall for the Colorado Symphony, which now has three large Kirkland paintings. Also within the Denver Performing Arts Complex, there are three large Kirkland paintings in the Quigg Newton Denver Municipal Auditorium, underneath the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Newton was a much admired Denver mayor (1947–1955) who owned two Kirkland paintings with his wife, Ginny, and had one hanging behind his desk while mayor.
1978 August 18–October 1: Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum, Vance Kirkland FIFTY YEARS, featured eighty-three paintings and a forty-seven-page catalog. When asked how he felt about having a fifty-year retrospective, Kirkland replied with his usual flippant humor, “I’m just glad to be alive.” A few months later, Genesis Galleries in New York opened a retrospective on Kirkland with an eighty-one-page catalog.
1979 Donated his only signed, numbered serigraph edition to benefit the Denver Symphony Orchestra.
1981 Died May 24, Denver, at the age of seventy-six from hepatitis B contracted from a bad blood transfusion in the hospital.
1987 Denver Art Museum: American Works on Paper from the Jan Perry Mayer Collection including Kirkland paintings.
1988 Denver Art Museum: Vance Kirkland: The Early Works (1927–1947).
1992–1993 Dallas Museum of Art: Kirkland was exhibited in the American Regionalism Gallery and the European and American Modern & Surrealism Gallery; 1993 Kirkland continued to be displayed for the opening of the new Hamon Wing; Kirkland had also been included in the 1933 Exhibition of Watercolors at the Dallas Museum.
1993 Honored posthumously by Historic Denver as part of The Colorado 100, “for contributions and lasting impact on the arts in Colorado.”
1994–1995 January 30, 1994–March 26, 1995: Kirkland included in a museum traveling exhibition, The Informing Spirit, to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada), Vancouver Art Gallery (British Columbia, Canada), Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleston, SC). Artists included Ernest Blumenschein, Marsden Hartley, Raymond Jonson, John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe and Agnes Pelton; a one-hundred-seventy-six-page catalog was produced for this exhibition.
1994 August 14: Premiered an hour television special, Vance Kirkland’s Visual Language, which was produced by Emmerich Oross and Rocky Mountain PBS and aired on over 100 affiliate PBS stations. It featured eight directors and curators from The Art Institute of Chicago, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, Denver Art Museum, Museum of Art—University of Arizona and Kirkland Museum.
1994 The Aspen Institute, Aspen, Colorado, one-person show for Vance Kirkland.
1996 Hugh Grant and Merle Chambers established the Kirkland Foundation.
1996 Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado: Kirkland is included in the Jan Perry Mayer Collection on Paper.
1997–2000 Kirkland works were given a traveling exhibition held in eleven European museums and two European exhibition halls, in ten countries. In each show, all five of Kirkland’s painting periods were represented, demonstrating the strength of his entire career. Catalogs were published by most of the European museums for their Kirkland shows—eight dual-language catalogs in nine languages including English. A Stemmle book on Kirkland was also published in association with the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany in 1998.
1998 Denver Art Museum: Vance Kirkland: The Late Paintings (1958–1981).
1999 May: A ballet based on Kirkland’s life, The Artist and The Muse—Dreamspace, was performed by Colorado Ballet eight times at the Denver Auditorium Theater. It won the 2001 Heartland Regional Emmy for Best Entertainment Program. Choreography was by Martin Fredmann and Andrew Thompson; Hugh Grant wrote the scenario and constructed the music using Gustav Mahler, Walter Piston, Howard Hanson, Samuel Barber, Francis Poulenc, Charles Ives, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Alan Hovhaness. It was broadcast on two Denver PBS stations and on State Russian Television when the Kirkland exhibition was given at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg in 2000 (the first one-person exhibition in St. Petersburg for an American artist).
2003 Wednesday, April 2: Kirkland Museum opened with public hours at 13th Avenue & Pearl Street.
2003 April: An hour television special about Kirkland Museum, MuseumMuseum, was produced by Joshua Hassel and Colorado Public Television, a PBS member station. This documentary was broadcast to coincide with the public opening of Kirkland Museum and has been subsequently broadcast numerous times.
2006–2007 Two Kirkland paintings were exhibited in The Modern West, curated by Emily Ballew Neff at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, then traveling to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In each museum Kirkland’s paintings were placed in the same gallery with Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still. A 315-page catalog of the exhibition was published.
2011–2014 February 2011–January 2014: Denver Art Museum three-year, one-person Vance Kirkland show, initially as part of the inter-museum exhibition Earth and Fire (April 2011–August 2012); coinciding with the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum, November 18, 2011.
2014 August 2–September 13: David Findlay Jr. Gallery, New York, included Kirkland in its Restless Universe exhibition.
2014–2015 October 3, 2014–January 4, 2015: Kirkland included, with two paintings, in the first exhibition on Southwest American Abstract Expressionism at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, Norman: Macrocosm/Microcosm: Abstract Expressionism in the American Southwest. Catalog available.