J. Chris Wilson

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J. Chris Wilson
J. Chris Wilson.jpg
J. Chris Wilson in his studio
Alma materUniversity of Georgia, Valdosta State University, University of Florida
Known forNorth Carolina scenic landscapes
Notable work
"From Murphy to Manteo - An Artist's Scenic Journey," a landscape series
StyleAmerican Southern regionalist

J. Chris Wilson (born 1948) is an American Southern regionalist artist who is noted for undertaking a comprehensive portrait painting of the North Carolina scenic landscape.[1] This landscape series, "From Murphy to Manteo—An Artist's Scenic Journey," was inspired by Wilson's time teaching at Aichi Shukutoku University in Nagoya, Japan. When he was teaching in Japan, he became interested in serial Japanese landscape prints by Ando Hiroshige.[2] "Some of the completed pieces already hang in the North Carolina Museum of History, which in a way makes Wilson's project a piece of our state's history already, and he's not even one-third done," writes Michael Graff in Our State magazine.[3] The series was named for the Murphy to Manteo highway, which is US 64, the longest route in North Carolina. The phrase "from Murphy to Manteo" is commonly used to mean "all across the state" or "all of North Carolina."[4][unreliable source?]

Wilson's paintings were the first to be featured in the North Carolina House of Representatives Chamber of the North Carolina Legislative Building.[citation needed] He was the first artist-in-residence at Barton College.[5]


Wilson trained at the University of Florida, Valdosta State University, and the University of Georgia. He received his M.F.A. from the University of Georgia, Athens, GA, in 1973. He earned a B.A. in 1970 from Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA.[6] Wilson's primary professor in graduate school at the University of Georgia was Lamar Dodd. Dodd greatly influenced Wilson's early realistic work.[7]

Career and style[edit]

Wilson, initially a mid-century modern abstractionist, transitioned into a regional realist by 1972. Wilson was artist-in-residence at the Savannah Art Association in Savannah, Ga. in 1974.[8]

In 1974, he began his career as Professor of Art at Barton College (formerly Atlantic Christian College) in Wilson, N.C.. During his tenure of nearly 40 years at Barton College, he variously served as the director of the painting program, art department chair, director of the Barton Art Museum, director of the Scholastic Art Awards for Eastern North Carolina, and curator of the Paula W. Patterson Collection. Wilson built a strong non-traditional student program with a substantial number of painters studying with him for many years. He also prepared numerous traditional students to successfully complete graduate study in painting. Wilson retired from teaching at Barton College in 2012. He was awarded Professor Emeritus status by Barton College in 2012.[9]

Wilson served on the boards of the Wilson Historic Properties Commission, the Arts Council of Wilson, the Arts Council of Edgecombe County, The Board of Advisors of Preservation North Carolina, The Blount Bridgers House/ Hobson Pittman Memorial Foundation, the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, and the Board of Directors of Preservation North Carolina.[10]

Wilson has also served as a consultant in art, historic preservation, and the decorative arts.

During the time he was at Barton College, Wilson produced hundreds of paintings. His paintings are in public, corporate, and private collections throughout the United States, especially in the Southeast. His paintings are also in England, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Wilson's paintings have usually fallen into the traditional categories of landscapes, still lifes, and portraits.[11]

Wilson's representational works often demonstrate his preference for abstract compositional strategies. James Lancel McElhinney writes in J. Chris Wilson: Retrospective[12]"…Wilson's home looks to the past, but exists very much in the present—much like his paintings…Many of Wilson's paintings have this particular blend of traditional and modern painting strategies. In Wrapped Still Life with Gucci Bag, 1999, Wilson's goal appears to be the manipulation of objects as shapes and colors into a composition that reads as much as an abstraction as it does as a representational image."

Themes have been periodically developed throughout his career, sometimes returning to the earlier theme years later or working on more than one theme at a time.

Themes have included still lifes with cellophane wrapped packages of fruit and paper shopping bags in the 1970s and early 1980s. Wilson began a large series of still lifes with all objects being loosely wrapped as if to conceal the identity of the objects while emphasizing abstract shapes beginning in the mid-1980s. Garden benches began appearing in 1987.

Japanese-themed oils and watercolors were produced for a short time after living and teaching at a university in Japan in the fall of 1994 through winter of 1995. Wilson employed the technique in some works of painting on woven paper after 1990, emphasizing the digital references in the weave of the paper or floating square shapes. Broken china began appearing in Wilson's work in 1996. Wilson completed numerous paintings of cotton fields, especially from 1998 to 2003.

The production of other paintings while working on themes was typical. By 2004, Wilson turned his attention almost exclusively to "From Murphy to Manteo—An Artist's Scenic Journey," traveling across North Carolina numerous times,[13] photographing and sketching potential compositions. Wilson's stated goal is 100 large scale canvases some with dimensions approaching 16 feet. "Landscape artist and Southern Regionalist painter J. Chris Wilson is on a quest to create the largest and most ambitious series in the history of landscape art, a personal and comprehensive portrait of the entire state of North Carolina on canvas," wrote Cristina Virsida in "Moving Mountains—J. Chris Wilson's 'From Murphy to Manteo' Series" in July 2012.

Personal life[edit]

Wilson was born in Waycross, Ga., in 1948. For much of his childhood, he lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. He moved to North Carolina in 1974. Wilson is married to Kathleen, and has a daughter, Singleton, and a son, Matthew. He has made his home in Wilmington, N.C[14].


  1. ^ "N.C. Landscape Artist J. Chris Wilson Presents "From Murphy to Manteo—An Artist's Scenic Journey" on April 24 | Barton College". Barton College. 2014-04-17. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  2. ^ seamlesswhole.com. "North Carolina artist J. Chris Wilson | About". www.jchriswilson.com. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  3. ^ "Scenes from 64: The Art of J. Chris Wilson — Our State Magazine". Our State Magazine. 2013-02-20. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  4. ^ "Manteo to Murphy | NCpedia". www.ncpedia.org. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  5. ^ "Professor J. Chris Wilson Named Artist in Residence at Barton College | Barton College". Barton College. 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  6. ^ seamlesswhole.com. "North Carolina artist J. Chris Wilson | About". www.jchriswilson.com. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  7. ^ seamlesswhole.com. "North Carolina artist J. Chris Wilson | About". www.jchriswilson.com. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  8. ^ seamlesswhole.com. "North Carolina artist J. Chris Wilson | About". www.jchriswilson.com. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  9. ^ seamlesswhole.com. "North Carolina artist J. Chris Wilson | About". www.jchriswilson.com. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  10. ^ seamlesswhole.com. "North Carolina artist J. Chris Wilson | About". www.jchriswilson.com. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  11. ^ seamlesswhole.com. "North Carolina artist J. Chris Wilson | Gallery". www.jchriswilson.com. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  12. ^ Wilson, J. Chris; McElhinney, James Lancel (2003-01-01). J. Chris Wilson: Retrospective (First ed.). J. Chris Wilson.
  13. ^ Wolfram, Walt; Reaser, Jeffrey (2014-01-01). Talkin' Tar Heel: How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina. UNC Press Books. ISBN 9781469614366.
  14. ^ seamlesswhole.com. "North Carolina artist J. Chris Wilson | About". www.jchriswilson.com. Retrieved 2017-04-18.

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