I first became aware of Richard Mayhew around 2006. I saw his work featured in a cable television show, which prompted me to research him and his art. Before my research, I presumed he was fictional, created merely for the plot of the show. Little did I know he was a well-respected artist. Mayhew is an abstract artist of African American and Native American descent who became very popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Born in Amityville, New York on April 3, 1924, he made a name for himself through his unique, expressive use of color. He had his first solo exhibition in 1955, at the esteemed Brooklyn Museum, one of the oldest and largest museums in the country that houses one of the most extensive art collections. I don’t own any of his art, but I would like to one day.
Mayhew developed an appreciation for art in grade school, and began painting the images of the seashore, experimenting with artistry using his father’s paint supplies and began patterning his work after Rembrandt and other abstract artists before he branched off into developing his own artistic style. His style is best described as neo-American impressionism.
After being awarded a fellowship and a grant, Mayhew travelled throughout Europe, further developing his craft and how own unique signature. He officially decided then to focus his efforts on abstract art because it “has no space, no identity. It allows the painting to be about emotion.”1 He wanted his art to represent renewal and survival, reflective of the strife that he and others who have faced racial oppression.
He was a professor of art at Pennsylvania State University, where he retired in 1991. He has done some work professionally, mostly developing commissioned work. He now resides in Santa Cruz, California.
1. Guthrie, Julian, “Art of Richard Mayhew at MoAD” San Francisco Chronicle. October 16, 2009. http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Art-of-Richard-Mayhew-at-MoAD-3283546.php#photo-2426129 accessed December 15, 2013.
2. Pennsylvania State University “Richard Mayhew Biography,” Pennsylvania Center for the Book http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Mayhew__Richard.html, accessed December 15, 2013.