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Everett McNear (1904 - 1984)
Everett McNear was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1904. At the age of 16 he did his first work as a professional designer. However, at that time, it was theatre and stage design which held the strongest fascination for him and from 1922 to 1927 he designed nearly three dozen sets for various theatres in Minnesota. After a year of study at the University of Minnesota, McNear found that the drawing and painting classes at the Minneapolis School of Art were more immediate to his needs than liberal arts courses.
In 1924, he made his first contact with Cameron Booth. Prior to his arrival at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1921, Booth had been thoroughly exposed to the key exponents of French painting. His style was firmly rooted in the Cubist and Impressionist traditions. Booth’s influence on McNear was significant. “Cameron Booth taught me to love the smell of turpentine and the feel of a bristle brush in oil paint. He opened the doors for me. Beyond them I found the rich linear organization of Veronese, the color harmonies of Titian, and the poetic, freely moving space-forms of El Greco and Tintoretto. I began to see that these abstract qualities and relationships were the things that gave a painting a life of its own.” Under the influence of Booth, Edmund Kinzinger, and his fellow students at the Minneapolis School of Art, McNear abandoned the curvilinear forms of his early drawings in favor of a more disciplined aesthetic.
In 1932, McNear made his first of many trips to Europe. Hungry for personal and artistic growth, he scheduled an exhaustive program that would guide him through much of Western Europe, including time spent at the Academie Moderne studying etching with Marcoussis. His travels are particularly important to an understanding of the artist and his work. In his book Young Eye Seeing, his collected letters document this first trip, express his motivations, and chart his goals.
His return to the US in 1933 saw the artist turning to work as an illustrator, and in Chicago, he worked for many years as a graphic designer. McNear also became heavily involved in the art scene in Chicago. He became a member of the Arts Club and won numerous prizes for artworks he exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Directors Club, the Illinois State Museum and the Art Guild. He was a prominent artist, designer, and collector in Chicago and also put together exhibitions at the Art Institute, the Arts Club, and later at the Sears Tower.
McNear and his wife, Ann, were benefactors of what was the Notre Dame Art Gallery (now the Snite Art Museum); they served on the advisory panel and Everett did the initial gallery installation design. McNear donated hundreds of his own works to the Snite, plus pieces from his collection including works by Alexander Archipenko, Cameron Booth and Edmund Kinzinger, in addition to African sculptures; Flemish, Spanish, and Italian manuscript pages; Persian paintings and Peruvian textiles.
Everett McNear was a happy painter … “There is a genuine pleasure in the transferring of ideas from nature to the canvas, and in the handling of paint.” A dozen one-man shows in galleries and museums from San Francisco to New York rewarded McNear for his dedication to the smell of turpentine and the drag of the loaded brush.