Daily Special

Big Washing
Carroll Cloar
Big Washing
1978 | acrylic on Masonite | 28x34 | $80000

Carroll Cloar is a Memphis household name. If it isn’t for you, it should be. Born and raised in Earle, Arkansas in 1913, Cloar would become a prolific Southern artist, known for his haunting, dreamy, and impressionist yet surrealist-like paintings of the American South. His artwork challenged perceptions of the South and southern artists, gaining him national attention. His partnership with Memphis’ first gallerist, Alice Bingham, established Memphis on the map of up and coming American art cities in the mid-1900s.

Just like our very own David Lusk, Cloar was an English major at Southwestern at Memphis (now known as Rhodes College). Not many know he was a clever and thoughtful writer who sought inspiration through words. He quipped: “Many times when my backlog of ideas is getting low, I read the dictionary. Quite often one word can evoke images that lead to a painting.” A true logophile, Cloar’s way with words easily adapted to acrylic paint on Masonite, creating a visceral and poignant visual vocabulary for his work. In an instant, Big Washing is a classic Cloar: the dappled trees, the flat planes of bright color, the distinct way the children’s faces are composed, and of course, that keen awareness he gives us as viewers that those kids are totally having words with one another.

Initially pursuing painting at Memphis College of Art, he eventually enrolled at the prestigious Art Students League in NYC, later to be represented by the highly regarded female gallerist, Edith Halpert. Cloar traveled extensively on the Guggenheim and MacDowell Fellowships, and during WWII and was particularly fond of Mexico. A long-anticipated book on his career will (hopefully) be published in late 2020 by the University of Arkansas Press.

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