A FINE SENSE OF BALANCE — Russell Green started attending college in small town Iowa during an era of unparalleled prosperity in the United States. Yet by the time Green graduated five years later from the Art Institute of Chicago, the Depression had brought the country to its knees economically. In those few years, ending with his Bachelor of Arts, Green had also undergone a personal transformation from a farmboy to a sophisticated urban artist and teacher. His first teaching job, at the University of Chicago, would have given him a chance to display his command of the international art style that the city of Chicago was fostering in both art and architecture.There would be more transitions and challenges ahead of Green in his long career, but his young ability to adapt and rebalance stayed with him throughout his life and is reflected in the quiet, complex, assurance of his paintings.
Avant garde Midwestern artists, unlike their New York counterparts, did not find as much support from local dealers, local museums and the public. But many older artists have told me that, though the situation kept their artwork undervalued on the national art scene, they nonetheless profited from the freedom from oversight. This was especially true if the artist could find a berth in the academic world.
Stephens College in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s was one of the most prestigious women’s colleges in the country. Dr. Louise Dudley, from her position as Dean, had transformed the way American colleges taught the arts through her books "Introduction to the Humanities" and "The Humanities."
During Green’s long years as Head of the Art Department at Stephens he supervised the expansion of the art department and provided the students with state of the art printing presses, kilns and painting facilities. He also enjoyed the support of other art faculty like Will Freund. Freund, like Green, is hard to find on the internet today, but in the 1950s he was winning national and international prizes and awards for groundbreaking brutalist sculpture and highly abstracted painting.
Stephens College is located in the small city of Columbia, Missouri and during Russell Green’s years there he became an arbiter of taste for the community. Besides creating and exhibiting abstract paintings, Green was also locally famous as a cook, a creator of formal gardens, an interior designer, a collector of antiques including asian antiquities, and an architect of contemporary homes and historic preservation. Russell Green gave the author of this biography support in the early years of her career.
The patrons who bought Russell Green’s paintings at mid century have quietly passed them on through inheritance and the emergence of this trove of his early work on the market provides an unprecedented chance for us to see and, perhaps to own, a piece of Russell Green’s remarkable artistic achievement.
Melissa Williams, Columbia, MO