The artists of Mississippi are real treasures, and none shines brighter than Marie Atkinson Hull. She is beloved by collectors, art students and Mississippians who enjoy her work. A major retrospective exhibition and a new book will honor Hull’s legacy.
Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull will be on view at the Mississippi Museum of Art from Sept. 26 through Jan. 10. The exhibition was curated by internationally acclaimed concert pianist and Mississippi native Bruce Levingston, who also wrote the book of the same name. The exhibition features 80 oil paintings and 35 works on paper in various media — drawings, watercolors, gouaches — as well as a selection of rare sketchbooks used by the artist, many of which have never been publicly exhibited.
The works are drawn from the museum’s collection along with those found at Delta State University, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, the University of Mississippi Museum and private collections. BancorpSouth is sponsoring the exhibition.
The forthcoming book — published by University Press of Mississippi — is a complement to the exhibition and examines 200 of Hull’s most important paintings and watercolors. It will include state-of-the-art, high-resolution images of these works made especially for this project.
“Marie Hull is an artist who exemplifies some of the best of Mississippi’s creative qualities. She was a committed teacher, a perceptive and thoughtful creator, and an individual who looked both deeply at her native state as well as fearlessly explored places far beyond the borders,” said Museum Director Betsy Bradley. “Her prodigious body of work is a reflection of how transformative art can be, both for the viewer and for artists themselves.”
She added that Hull’s personal life, which spans periods of dynamic historical change including the Great Depression, both World Wars, and the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, offers powerful insights about how perseverance and passion can yield incredible productivity in even the most shifting of sands.
Author and curator Levingston has known about Marie Hull since he was a child. “She was a revered figure in the Delta where I grew up and her beautiful works were regularly shown at Delta State University and collected by people I knew in the area,” he said. “I was fascinated, even as a child, by her explosive use of color and bold brush strokes. She painted with color the way I heard music.
“As I grew to know more about art and painting, I came to have an even deeper appreciation of the genuine depth and daring of Hull’s art and vision. She was constantly pushing and challenging herself to explore new ideas, techniques, and styles in art, and in so doing created an extraordinarily wide-ranging and brilliant body of work.”
Levingston found Hull’s willingness to fearlessly explore the unknown the most inspirational thing about her life. “That she was a woman born in 1890 in a small town in Mississippi makes that all the more remarkable,” he said. “She was a true pioneer of art in the South. She saw the true beauty of all people and nature around her, and her unflinching, insightful eye reveals itself in her exquisite and powerful works.”
The Butler Snow law firm is among the numerous business and professional organizations whose art collections include Hull’s work. Art Spratlin co-chairs the firm’s art committee and also serves as secretary of the Mississippi Museum of Art’s Board of Directors. “In our 20 offices around the country we focus on key artists of those states,” he said. “We have tried to get a good inventory of art, and Marie Hull is a household name in the art world. Somehow she’s been able to transcend through age groups and maintain her reputation. We’re pleased with the museum’s exhibition and think it’s a big deal.”
Bradley says exhibition visitors of all ages can look upon the work of Marie Hull and become entranced. “Visual art, like music, has immediate effects upon us all, young and old alike. The scope and diversity of her work also provides something for everyone, from poignant still lifes to moving portraits to vibrant abstracts,” she said.
The director believes Hull’s art continues to stand out because of the artist’s technical mastery across so many decades. “As the art world evolved, she too continually advanced in her work,” Bradley said. “She was prolific, making thousands of paintings which are scattered throughout museum and private collections all over the Southeast. This retrospective exhibition, Bright Fields, pulls together these many geographic and thematic threads into a gallery experience that is not to be missed.”
» Andrew Bucci Rediscovered, showing the work the Mississippi artist and Marie Hull student opens May 26 at Belhaven University. Get more information at buccirediscovered.com. Image courtesy of www.usaibc.com
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