Monday, May 19, 2008

Elemore Morgan Jr.

With a great sense of loss, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art announces that Elemore Morgan Jr., one of the most important and respected artists in Louisiana and the South, passed away on Sunday, May 18, 2008, at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. Morgan Jr. passed away due to complications from the heart surgery he had in April, 2008. He was 76 years old.

Elemore Morgan Jr. was celebrated for his colorful paintings of vernacular architecture and panoramic vistas of the prairies of Southwestern Louisiana. With the exceptions of the occasional Mississippi River scene and New Orleans cityscapes, the majority of his paintings concentrated on a 30-mile-square area between Kaplan, Abbeville and Maurice, La.

Morgan was the only child born to Elemore Morgan Sr. and Dorothy Golden Morgan on Aug. 6, 1931 in Baton Rouge, La. Morgan Sr., a well-known photographer, often took Morgan Jr. on his travels throughout Louisiana. He was known for his images of Louisiana landscapes, churches, folk culture and people, immersing his son in the importance and beauty of his native state. Morgan Jr. studied art at Louisiana State University, where teachers such as printmaker Caroline Durieux, painter Ralston Crawford, and painter David Le Doux shaped Morgan Jr.’s early artistic outlook. Morgan Jr. was a member of the Air Force ROTC, and upon his graduation with a bachelor’s degree in 1952, he was commissioned into the United States Air Force to serve in the Korean War. During “R&R” (rest and relaxation), Morgan Jr. traveled throughout Korea and Japan, absorbing the culture, particularly that of the art and architecture. In 1954, he attended the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford University in England. Among his classmates were writer John Updike, and artists Philip Morsberger and Ron Kitaj. He graduated in 1957.

After a few weeks of post-graduate travel in Europe, Morgan Jr. returned to Louisiana, and in 1965 began teaching at University of Louisiana/Lafayette (then Southwestern Louisiana University). Upon his retirement in 1997, Morgan Jr. had influenced and mentored hundreds of artists. In 2006, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art had a retrospective of both his and his father’s work. A book, “Art and Life in Louisiana: Elemore Morgan Sr. and Elemore Morgan Jr.,” by David Houston, was published by the museum to complement the exhibition.

Morgan Jr. ­ whose paintings and photographs are in the museum’s collection -- was a familiar presence at the Ogden, and could often be seen on the fifth-floor terrace working on paintings, some of which are in a show currently at Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans, La. The museum also used the painting, “A View from the Prairie,” for the poster and invitation from its grand opening in 2003. A tribute installation of his work will open on Thursday, May 22, in the museum’s Kanner Gallery in the Stephen F. Goldring Hall.

“Elemore was a great friend to the Ogden Museum, and to all of us who work here,” says museum director J. Richard Gruber. “His generous spirit and grand artistic vision will be missed by all who knew him. Elemore’s art was rooted in the environment and culture of his native Louisiana, passed on to him by his father, noted photographer Elemore Morgan Sr. His love of this state and his understanding of its unique history infused the entire range of his work, which will serve as a lasting legacy for future generations.”

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