This exhibition paints a nostalgic portrait of the Dixie Art Colony, which is thought to be the Deep South’s first art colony. Although many of the colonists were considered “Sunday painters” several of them, most notably Kelly Fitzpatrick, were serious artists who later became icons in the world of Southern art. An extensive collection of private papers, journals and photographs were closely examined in preparation for this exhibition, some of which are included in the exhibition. The archives offer fascinating insight into life of the Dixie colony and its participants, while the original artwork offers a colorful glimpse of central Alabama’s rural landscape.
Although it is clear Fitzpatrick wanted his students to develop their own personal style, Fitzpatrick’s influence is apparent in examining the work of other colonists. His influence is particularly visible through brushwork and the use of color and light; some colony descendants commonly refer to this distinction as “the colony style.” The colonists’ choice of subject matter could be classified as one of regionalism, an artistic focus that shunned city life in favor of common rural scenes.
The colony’s legacy is broad and varied. Some of the colonists were instrumental in founding some of the South’s finest regional art museums, including the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the Mississippi Museum of Art, while others left their mark as prominent educators on both the primary and secondary level. Colonist Frank Applebee left his most prominent mark in Auburn. Applebee was responsible for the 1948 acquisition of the core collection of Auburn’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, which is today estimated to be worth millions.
More than a year in the making, this exhibition, was inspired by Lynn Barstis Williams Katz, Ph.D. Lynn is a longtime resident of Auburn, Alabama, and is considered to be one of the foremost experts on Southern art colonies. Without her assistance, this exhibition would not have been possible. KFMG would also like to thank colony descendants, Sally LeBron Holland, Martha Moon Kracke and Bebe Wolfe for their invaluable assistance.
For more information about this exhibition, contact Mark Harris at M.Harris@DixieArtColony.org
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