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Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
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Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
McCarthy, D. Michael
(1951)
Collection: American Collection
Specialty: Paintings
View Artwork
D. Michael McCarthy was born in Los Angeles in 1951 to a family that
fostered his early love of art by frequent visits to the many museums that
city has to offer. Because his father was the vice president of a real
estate company, McCarthy's first choice of a college major was finance,
but he soon abandoned it in favor of his love of art, transferring to
Fontbonne College in St. Louis after his family moved there. He received
his B.F.A. in 1973 and spent the next eighteen months in the studio,
developing his own style and approach to landscape painting. Among the
artistic influences he turned to during this time were several artists
whose works are also found in the Norton's permanent collection, including
Dutch Old Master Jacob van Ruisdael, whom he cites for "his powerful use
of light and dark", versatile American painter George Inness of whom
McCarthy says, "[he] reaches beyond the things seen", and the Hudson River
School artists. He explains that the latter, "is probably the school I
feel closest to. It's as though Moran, Bierstadt, Church, Thomas Hill, and
the rest were my friends."

McCarthy continued to expand his artistic studies, taking courses at St.
Louis University, Washington University, and the Otis Art Institute, but
soon discovered that his painting demanded an immersion in and genuine
experience of nature in the raw. While spending his winters in Los Angeles
painting, he used the rest of the year for a "visual odyssey," exploring
the mountains, coasts, and scenic venues of the American West, often
venturing into places unfrequented by less adventurous souls. As he
explained to Elizabeth Rigby of Southwest Art in 1980, "The true
sense of nature is only as broad as one's experience with it." Therefore,
he says he eschews the usual tourist sites: "I have found it imperative to
climb and hike to those view-points that reveal nature's workings in a
more complete way, like seeing the actual tree-line on a mountain after
climbing up through two or three different botanical zones, or seeing the
wave action of a kelp bed by swimming out to it through heavy surf . . ."

It was on one of these trips in 1976 that McCarthy discovered the beauty
of Sedona, Arizona and decided to settle there permanently. At that time,
he was still struggling as an artist, exhibiting largely in a local
restaurant and sometimes trading paintings in lieu of rent. However, Allan
Husberg, owner of the Husberg Fine Arts Gallery, happened to lunch at the
restaurant where his paintings were on display and sought out the young
artist. Six months later, they began a long-term relationship. McCarthy
added to his representation over the years, also showing with the Jensen
Gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Trailside Galleries in Bozeman,
Montana and Carmel, California, the John Lane Gallery in New York, and the
Jones Gallery in La Jolla, California, among others. However, in recent
years, the majority of his work has been commissioned.

McCarthy works almost exclusively in oils, working much as the Hudson
River School painters did, by bringing back sketches from his travels and
creating the final painting in his studio, a process used in works like
Sentinel of the Sierras which depicts a particular scenic location.
He explains, "To get the lines of nature, the forms of nature, I have to
draw it on the spot. A photograph for me is just this mechanical instant
that is too limiting. So much more can be distilled into a sketch." These
sketches, usually watercolor, are taken back to the studio where they
serve as source material for his final composition. And again like the
Hudson River School artists, he occasionally "re-arranges" nature to
achieve a particular effect; he says of one painting, "The pinnacle on the
left was behind me but I moved it over to give the view a 360 degree type
of view." One of the most important elements in his painting is creating
the emotional response to light that was characteristic of another painter
who was a major influence on his work, the British artist J. M. W. Turner.
This is especially evident in works like the Norton's Evening on Mt.
Rainier
and Evening on the Verde. On the whole, McCarthy's
career can probably be summed up best in his own words: "What I am trying
to do is to capture the people's imagination, not just their attention."

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections