David C. Driskell, Artist and African American Art Scholar, Remembered

  • April 02, 2020 17:14

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Professor David C. Driskell

David C. Driskell passed away on April 1st 2020 at the age of 88.

From the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora at the University of Maryland:

One of the world's leading authorities on the subject of African American Art, Prof. David C. Driskell is highly regarded as both an artist and a scholar.

Born in 1931 in Eatonton, Georgia, David C. Driskell grew up in North Carolina and completed the art program at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, in 1953 . He received an undergraduate degree in art from Howard University in 1955 and an M.F.A. from Catholic University of America in 1962. He then explored post-graduate study in art history at The Netherlands Institute for the History of Art in The Hague. Trained as a painter and art historian, Driskell works primarily in collage and mixed media, and printmaking.

Prof. Driskell began his teaching career at Talladega College in 1955. He taught at Howard and Fisk Universities and served as Visiting Professor of Art at several universities, including Bowdoin College, The University of Michigan, Queens College, and Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He joined the faculty of the Department of Art at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1977 and served as its Chairperson from 1978-1983. In 1995, he was named Distinguished University Professor of Art and taught until his retirement in 1998. In 2001, the University of Maryland established the David C. Driskell Center to honor Prof. Driskell as an Artist, Art Historian, Collector, Curator, and Scholar. The Center honors Prof. Driskell by preserving the rich heritage of African American visual art and culture.

David Driskell, "Ghetto Wall #2," 1970. Oil, acrylic, and collage on linen, 60.0 × 50.0 (in). DC Moore Gallery, shown at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2017.

The recipient of numerous fellowships, awards, and prizes including three Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships and a Harmon Foundation Fellowship, Prof. Driskell has also received thirteen honorary doctoral degrees in art. While teaching at the University of Maryland, Prof. Driskell maintained an active career as a practicing artist, teacher, curator, collector, art administrator, and art consultant. He has lectured across the globe and his works are included in major collections of art museums throughout the world. Prof. Driskell has authored five exhibition books on the subject of African American art, co-authored four others, and published more than 40 catalogues from exhibitions he has curated.

In 1976, Driskell curated the groundbreaking exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950” which has been a foundation for the field of African American Art History. In 2000, Prof. Driskell was honored by President Bill Clinton as one of 12 recipients of the National Humanities Medal. In 2005, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, established the David C. Driskell Prize, the first national award to honor and celebrate contributions to the field of African American art and art history. In 2007, Prof. Driskell was elected as a National Academician by the National Academy. In 2016, Prof Driskell received the Lifetime Legacy Award from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and in 2018, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His biography David C. Driskell: Artist and Scholar was written by Dr. Julie McGee, a curator of African American art at the University of Delaware University Museums, and was published in 2006 by Pomegranate Publications, Inc. David Driskell and his wife, Thelma, maintained residences in Hyattsville, Maryland; Falmouth, Maine; and New York City.


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