Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
McClusky, John D.
(1914-1994)
Collection: American Collection
Specialties: Paintings, Prints
View Artwork
Like many would-be artists, the young John McClusky found his working
class family less than fully supportive of his ambitions. Born in East
Haven, Connecticut in 1914, McCluskey executed his first artistic foray on
the family's window blinds when he was seven and, as he said years later,
"My dad raised hell with me . . ." Nonetheless, after his graduation from
high school, he was able to convince them to allow him to attend the
Ohlm's School of Fine Arts in New Haven. The experimental art school,
modeled largely upon Renaissance apprenticeship teaching methods, was run
by Hugo Ohlm and associated Yale graduates offering a three-year program.
Students were taught all the basics, including how to grind their own
colors, but learned largely by doing, working on commissions given to the
school by locals: as McClusky remembered, "We worked constantly from eight
in the morning until eleven o'clock at night doing church jobs, designs
for stores, display, and a great deal of painting . . ."

It was a great basis for a commercial career which he began with a
partner, Louis Richard, doing packaging designs for national brands. The
two resolved to spend the first part of every year on commercial designs
and the second half pursuing their own fine art efforts. Over the years,
McClusky took the opportunity to work in different media, beginning with
oils and sketch work in charcoal, pencil, and watercolors. During the
1940s, he began using egg tempera which allowed him to incorporate a great
deal of detail, but after he made the decision to pursue his own studio
painting full-time in 1961, he switched to acrylic polymer and his works
became more impressionistic.

As his work also became more successful, he decided to leave behind the
chaos and crowding of the Connecticut/New York area following the
financial collapse of the gallery representing his work. With his wife
Lois and children Johnny and Katie, he moved more than a thousand miles
south to Fredericksburg, Texas in the heart of the beautiful Hill Country.
One of his first acts there was to establish an art league and offer free
lessons to students of all ages. The Fredericksburg Art Guild was formally
incorporated in 1971 and obtained non-profit status in 1981. It continues
today to offer arts education and otherwise promote the arts, having
evolved into a working artists' studio and gallery.

For the remaining years of his life, McClusky continued to paint the
people and places dear to him. When asked about his favorite subject, he
replied:

Everything around me. Everything! I'm situated in an ideal spot.
Fredericksburg is an old German community which still has many of the
characteristics that identified it a hundred years ago. The people are
beautiful, lovely, warm, and friendly. It's very very quiet - the kind of
life that you don't see too often today. What I'm doing is painting the
people and the town and trying to catch the spirit of the place.


After McClusky's death in 1994, the Kowert Art Gallery hosted a special
exhibition of his work, The Gift of Seeing. In that fitting final
tribute, his art exemplified what he had once stated as its goal: "I
really want to catch that which I begin to see more clearly all the while.
This, I think, is a worthwhile end for me."

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections