ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
The New Britain Museum of American Art will present a retrospective of New Britain-born artist Howard Rackliffe (1917–1987) on the centenary of his birth. Comprising approximately 60 works, the exhibition will span the 1950s to the 1980s. Rather than following the development of Rackliffe’s oeuvre chronologically, the exhibition will explore various bodies of work that define the artist’s output, including: Early Works; New York City; Maine Landscapes, Still Lifes, and Self Portraits. Describing himself as a “cyclical painter,” Rackcliffe returned to a number of these subjects repeatedly over the course of his career. On the occasion of this exhibition, Rackliffe’s works will be installed in concert with several of his poems, as well as historical ephemera that further illuminate his life and work. Rackliffe lived in New Britain sporadically throughout his life (from 1917–1940, 1951–1955, and again after 1959), during which time he explored diverse creative pursuits, including poetry, music composition, modern dance, and above all, visual art. A self-taught artist, Rackcliffe adopted a painterly style that was unique and idiosyncratic yet in dialogue with the modern aesthetics of his day, as characterized by the works of Albert Pinkham Ryder, Arthur Dove, and Marsden Hartley, whom he admired. Employing rich, earthy tones applied with vigorous, tactile strokes, Rackcliffe’s paintings convey both the material solidity and the emotional resonance of their subjects—whether landscapes, flowers, or self-portraits. The artist utilized an array of media including acrylic paint, gouache, enamel, cray pas, and ink, which he transformed into raw, rhapsodic compositions. Despite living a relatively rootless life, his time in New Britain, and later New York and Maine, as well as the people he encountered there, deeply impacted and inspired his work. Rackliffe maintained strong and lasting relationships with local collectors and artists throughout his life, and his legacy remains strong within the New Britain community. Throughout the 20th century, his work has been supported by the NBMAA, as part of our permanent collection and as the subject of two exhibitions: one in 1973 and in 1990. This centenary retrospective pays homage to this local artist, whose vision has transcended place and time. This exhibition is supported by Kevin Rita and Michael Shortell.