John Kelly Fitzpatrick: 1888 – 1953
Artist, Educator, Art Promoter and Co-founder of the Dixie Art Colony.
Although there have been questions surrounding the actual birth place of John Kelly Fitzpatrick, we have confirmed that he was indeed born on August 15, 1888, at the Cantelou home located at 207 West Tuskeena Street in Wetumpka, Alabama, to Jane Lovedy Kelly and Dr. Phillips Fitzpatrick. His grandfather Benjamin Fitzpatrick was governor of Alabama from 1841 to 1845. He grew up on Wetumpka’s west side in a comfortable home located on Autauga Street. By the age of four, he became interested in painting. He cultivated that interest as a young adult during a brief period of study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1912 and much later at the age of 37 at the Académie Julian in Paris.
Kelly served in World War I, during which he suffered severe shrapnel wounds. As a result, he was permanently scarred on his face, neck, and chest. This experience colored his outlook profoundly, and he later wrote that his physical suffering caused him to lose interest in the material world and focus instead on the beautiful and spiritual aspects of life.
Fitzpatrick is considered one of the South’s most prominent artists and art promoters of the 1930s and 40s. He is best known for paintings of rural central Alabama. His work can be found in the permanent collections of numerous art museums and selective private collections. During his travels in Europe, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters such as Cezanne, Matisse, and Van Gogh greatly influenced his style.
He was one of the founders of the Dixie Art Colony, the Alabama Art League, and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art and was the first director and co-founder of the Montgomery Museum of Art School. During The Great Depression, a particularly tough time for artists, he participated in the US Treasury Department’s Public Works of Art Project, also known as the New Deal Art Project, which was a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal economic recovery program.
While working on a series of murals for the Bank of Tallassee, Fitzpatrick suffered a massive heart attack and died on April 18, 1953. Based on the numerous newspaper articles that appeared after his death, it was very clear that he was one of the area’s most beloved and respected citizens.
- Born: Wetumpka, AL on August 15, 1888; Death: Montgomery, AL on April 18, 1953
- Best Known For: Regionalism and American Scene Painting
- Methods: Easel and Plein Air Painting, Oils and Watercolors
- Secondary Education: Univeristy of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL; School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Academie Julian, Paris, France
- Books: Alabama Masters: Artists and Their Work; Artists Bluebook; Davenport's Art Reference: The Gold Edition; Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975; A Symphony of Color The World of Kelly Fitzpatrick; Art and Popular Religion in Evangelical America, 1915-1940; Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters; Painting in the South: 1564-1980; Who's Who in American Art, 1953; Who's Who in American Art, 1947; American Art Today, 1939; Second National Exhibition of American Art, Summer 1937; Index of Artist; In and Out of Court, 1942; Contemporary Art of the United States, 1940; John Kelly Fitzpatrick Retrospective Exhibition, 1970
- Periodicals: American Art Review, Feb. 2006; American Art Review, Oct. 1997; Alabama Heritage, Summer 1996; Elmore County Living, March 2014
- Museums: Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, AL; Dixie Art Colony Foundation, Wetumpka, AL; Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA; Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL; Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, SC
- Archived Files: All archived files are password protected and available upon written request. The archive includes original letters by Fitzpatrick, photographs and examples of his artwork. Access John Kelly Fitzpatrick Files (We are in the process of digitizing our archives. Additional content will be added on a regular basis as it becomes available.)
References: Alabama Heritage, Summer 1996; Alabama Masters: Artists and Their Work; Ancestry.com; A Symphony of Color: The World of Kelly Fitzpatrick; Encyclopedia Of Alabama; Contemporary Art of the United States; Wikipedia; AskArt.com; Private Papers from the Dixie Art Colony Archives; Private Interviews