January 14, 1921|
|Died||February 17, 1981
Norris Embry (January 14, 1921 – February 17, 1981) was an American neo-expressionist artist born in Louisville, Kentucky. He grew up in East Orange, New Jersey outside New York City and Evanston, Illinois in the Chicago area, attending public schools through high school. Later, he studied at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland and the Art Institute in Chicago. In the late 1940s, he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy; his teacher, the expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka, was to have a lasting influence on Embry's work.
During his adolescent years in the Chicago area, Embry developed a keen interest in avant-garde literature, music and art. In 1947 Embry decided to devote his life to painting and, for the next 15 years until the early 1960s, embarked on a nomadic artistic career which would take him from San Francisco to New York, to post-war Europe, as well as Turkey and North Africa.
Amongst the countries in Europe where he took up temporary residence were Italy, France, Germany, Spain, England and Sweden. It was the Mediterranean culture and climate that struck a chord with his heart and his artistic imagination, and in particular, Greece where he returned frequently.
Throughout much of his life, Embry suffered from severe bouts of mental illness. In the mid-1960s, after having sought medical treatment at the Shepphard Pratt Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, he made that city his permanent residence. He continued to live and paint in Baltimore until the last weeks of his life.
After a series of strokes, he died February 17, 1981 and was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
Following Embry's death, the copyright to his works went to his sister and sole heir, Betty Embry Williams. Subsequently, she passed the copyright to her son and daughter, Warren Wilmot Williams and Lucy Williams Morin.
In the late 1990s, the heirs to the Norris Embry Estate donated the copyright to a trust which is mandated to protect and promote the copyright worldwide. The copyright is administered by the British-based company Norris Embry Artworks Collection Ltd, of which Warren Wilmot Williams is the managing director. In the early 2000s the heirs commissioned a website,
www.norrisembry.com, to commemorate their uncle. The website is an ever-growing resource on the life and works of Norris Embry, and a visual showcase for many of Embry's most outstanding artworks drawn from public and private collections throughout the world.
Norris Embry's work stands outside both conventional and commercial appreciation, although he has been referred to as the first American German Expressionist.
Amongst the painters he acknowledged as being a great influence (apart from his teacher Kokoschka) were: Jean Dubuffet, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Jackson Pollock, Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Egon Schiele, Georges Rouault and Wols. Another unexpected influence, the writer and illustrator James Thurber, can be seen particularly in Embry's whimsical cartoon-like monotypes that he produced throughout his career. The graffiti that fills much of his work records autobiographical details of his Life.
From the late 1950s until his death, Embry's work was exhibited regularly in New York and other cities in the United States and Europe.
- Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
- Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.
- Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
- Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY
- The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR
- The Newark Museum, Newark, NY
- University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington, KY