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Point of Pride

June 6, 2022
person looking at painting
Magda Salvesen looks at Schueler’s paintings at the UW Art Museum in 2017.

The UW Art Museum is home to the largest collection of artist Jon Schueler’s work of any public institution. 

By Nicole M. Crawford, Director and Chief Curator 

Relationships among artists, artists’ estates, art dealers, collectors and the University of Wyoming Art Museum are vital to developing and expanding the museum’s permanent collection. For example, the museum has worked closely with the estate of abstract expressionist painter Jon Schueler, including visits by Art Museum personnel to the artist’s former studio in New York. The museum has added 21 Schueler paintings to the permanent collection, creating the largest collection of his work in a public institution in the United States. 

The Jon Schueler estate facilitated the museum’s first acquisition of Schueler’s work by connecting the museum to a collector who is a well-respected art historian who generously donated a painting typical of the artist’s later work. To build on this important acquisition, the museum worked closely with the estate’s curator, Magda Salvesen, to increase Schueler’s representation through an additional gift of significant paintings. 

Jon Schueler (American, 1916–1992) was a second-generation abstract expressionist whose imagery depends on the existence of something observed. His focus is almost entirely on landscape, most particularly on “skyscape” or “lightscape.” The paintings convey nature at a specific moment, such as the buildup of clouds with the filtered sun breaking through. Using a range of color to express light—from subdued grey to intense red—Schueler creates paintings that are not only full of life and movement but also emotionally charged.

Schueler was born in Milwaukee, Wisc., in 1916 and earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Before he was a painter, Schueler navigated a B-17 bomber during World War II. The sky became a place filled with anxiety and beauty at the same time. Only after the war did Schueler train as an artist at the California School of the Fine Arts (1948–1951), where he was surrounded by a group of historically important artists who became known for the development of the Bay Area Figurative Movement of painting. Schueler moved to New York in 1951, and his remaining years were punctuated by visits to Mallaig, Scotland, where he filled his canvases with abstractions inspired by the area’s light and weather that became the hallmark of his signature style.

Through this acquisition, the UW Art Museum is able to share the legacy of Jon Schueler with the university community and the people of Wyoming and beyond—thus fulfilling the museum’s mission. Relationships formed with collectors and donors are integral to achieving the museum’s mission of presenting and collecting world-class art, sharing in its transformative powers, and fostering a deeper connection with humanity and a creativity that envisions new futures by engaging academic, local, state, national and global communities. The UW Art Museum previously presented a solo exhibition of his work in 2017 and is excited to share his work again in 2022 to highlight this important collection. Jon Schueler: Light in Process is on view at the Art Museum March 12 through June 4, 2022.

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