(STOCKBRIDGE, Mass.) – Everett Raymond Kinstler, who began his career as a comic book artist and illustrator working for the popular publications of his day and became a renowned portraitist of politicians, presidents and movie stars, is the subject of a new exhibition, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Pulps to Portraits, opening at Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday, March 10, 2012, and running through May 28, 2012. There will be an opening reception for members and paid guests on Saturday, March 10, 5 to 7 p.m., with comments by the artist at 5:30.
Over the years, Kinstler’s clients have included such notable figures as Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, Will Barnet, Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Alexander Calder, Benny Goodman, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Liv Ullmann, and Tom Wolfe. Original oil-on-canvas paintings of each of these figures will be featured in the exhibition, along with dynamic portraits of fellow illustrators Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and Norman Rockwell. The exhibition will document Kinstler’s transition from the illustration field, through early examples of book covers, magazine illustrations, and comic book pages, created in a variety of mediums. A collection of Kinstler’s current projects reveals the continued influence of illustration and motion pictures on the artist’s canvas.
Presented as part of Norman Rockwell Museum’s “Distinguished Illustrator Series,” highlighting the contributions of contemporary creators, the exhibition is coordinated by the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, the nation’s first research institute devoted to the art of illustration.
Born in New York City in 1926, Everett Raymond Kinstler began his career at age 16, drawing comic books, book and magazine illustrations, as well as covers for paperback books. As one of the “golden age” era of comic book artists, he created illustrations for such classic pulp magazines as The Shadow and Doc Savage. Kinstler studied at the Art Students League, under American illustrator and impressionist painter, Frank Vincent DuMond (1865-1961). DuMond’s influence on the artist was reflected in his oft-repeated statement, “I won’t try to teach you to paint, but to see and observe.” Kinstler would later teach at the school himself, from 1969 to 1974.
In 1949, a touchstone year in his life and career, Kinstler moved into his own “real” studio when DuMond helped him secure a space in the historic National Arts Club, where he continues to work today. That same year, he sought out and befriended one of his artistic idols, James Montgomery Flagg, creator of the iconic “I Want You” World War I recruiting poster. Their friendship continued until Flagg’s death in 1960, a professional relationship that Kinstler remembers as “my greatest influence.”
In the 1960s, the artist approached Portraits, Inc., a New York-based company connecting portraitists with sitters. Following several successful commissions, Kinstler made the decision to transition from illustrator to portraitist, and soon established himself as one of the nation’s foremost portrait painters.
Kinstler’s more than 1,200 portraits include such well-known personalities as Tony Bennett, Carol Burnett, James Cagney, Betty Ford, Gene Hackman, Katharine Hepburn, Lady Bird Johnson, Paul Newman, Peter O’Toole, Gregory Peck, and John Wayne. Others include authors Arthur Miller, Ayn Rand, Tennessee Williams, and Tom Wolfe; Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Harry Blackmun; business and government leaders such as John D. Rockefeller lll, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, six U.S. Governors, four U.S. Secretaries of State, and the presidents of universities and colleges including Brown, Harvard, Oklahoma, Princeton, Smith, Wellesley, Williams, and Yale.
Kinstler has painted more than 50 cabinet officers, more than any artist in the country’s history. Seven Presidents – Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — have posed for him. His portraits of Ford and Reagan are the official White House portraits.
The artist has been awarded honorary doctorates by Rollins College in 1983 and the Lyme Academy College of Art in 2002. The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., has acquired 75 of his original works for its permanent collection. He is represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Butler Institute of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, among others. In 1999, Kinstler received the Copley Medal from the Smithsonian, National Portrait Gallery, its highest honor. Memberships include: National Academy of Design (N.A.), Allied Artists of America, American Watercolor Society, Pastel Society of America (Hall of Fame), Audubon Artists, Copley Society of Boston (life), and the National Arts Club.