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Paul McCoy (1921-2005)

  • Ten years after our initial acquisition of the Paul McCoy collection we are pleased to present a new curation of his work.  McCoy is one of our most requested and beloved artists, and this new group showcases the same attention to color and light matched with the poetic spirit that made his work so sought after a decade ago, and so appealing today.

The Paul McCoy collection chronicles his early years as an artist; following his time in Seattle, Spain and ultimately California. The eighteen months spent in Spain are the centerpiece and exhibit the dynamic influence of his heroes: Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso and Klee. McCoy was a loner, maverick, and a man of very few words. The spare lines and sunny colors of his art were in many ways his voice to the outside.

McCoy intensely studied the Post-Impressionists, spending countless hours in museums and closely studying the books he kept in his studio. From Cezanne he learned to give his paintings (particularly his landscapes) an underlying structure that molded color and line into concentrated forms. Inspired by Van Gogh, McCoy often employed a sun-illuminated palette that used expressive colors to depict his inner emotions and reactions. From studying Picasso, McCoy became a master of the line, making the contours strong and delineated. And from both Picasso and the surrealism of Klee, McCoy was inspired to develop a visual language of secretive symbols charged with meaning. He even reached back to the Romanticism of Delacroix, studying his little known watercolors of Morocco and picking up on their subtle, lyrical qualities.

    The summer before McCoy entered college, a friend from New York’s Pratt Institute offered to teach him the basic principles and techniques of art. Though he never received a formal art education, he relentlessly studied the classic and modern masters, painting and drawing every opportunity he could – often outdoors. His preferred mediums were oil, watercolor, graphite and various inks. In 1950 he graduated from Cornell University with an MA in Literature. McCoy was as much a poet as he was a painter and often used art as a metaphor in his powerful poetry.

    When McCoy later moved to Seattle, he worked in the aerospace industry as a managing editor for Boeing. But by 1958 he was ready to leave it behind and pursue the life of an artist. He thought Spain would be the ideal place to live cheaply, observe the intense Mediterranean colors, and shadow the steps of the European Modernist Masters Picasso and Cezanne. The family lived in the village of Soller on the island of Majorca and Villajoyosa on the Mediterranean Coast. This romantic experiment lasted eighteen months and yielded a rich body of work that includes portraiture, landscapes, village scenes and interiors.

Like most artists, McCoy had to rely on his other career as a writer to provide a steady income, and so the family moved back to the U.S. in late 1959. There, they lived in Anaheim, Orange (in a new Eichler tract home) and near the beach in San Diego – where he found inspiration from the ocean, harbors, and coastal life. Over the years, he rarely showed his work publicly and had no interest in the business side of art. But Paul W. McCoy continued to study art and evolve his style, often reflecting themes inspired by the existentialists. He painted until shortly before his death in 2005.

    Lost Art Salon would like to thank Paul’s daughter Laurie Gates for bringing this new work to us and for her time and assistance in continuing to tell his story.
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