James Hilleary: Washington Color School Painter Dies At 90

James Hilleary in his Studio holding one of the works in his Reflection Series paintings Date 11 December 2004 Source Own work Author Keirn Hilleary

“I never planned a career in art, it simply happened.  My only formal training consisted of studying drawing and rendering in connection with my training in architecture.  However, born the son of a painter, I experimented through childhood with oil painting and was exposed to fine art at the Washington Galleries”.

James Hilleary was a Maryland-based abstract colorist whose geographical proximity to Washington, D.C., and artistic style propelled him into a larger group of Washington Color School painters whose most prominent artists included Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis
during the late 1950s and the 1960s. A Renaissance man with deep knowledge of architecture and music, Hilleary is best known for his commitment to creating harmonious, expertly executed canvases in variations of a signature style.  Music and art were equally influential in Hilleary’s early development. As a child he displayed a special talent for piano and drawing, which were encouraged by his amateur artist and musician father. He had studied painting with C. Law Watkins at the Phillips Collection, to which he was introduced at an early age and, like many other Washington artists, was influenced by the art he encountered there.

“In 1960, a museum curator, on seeing my paintings, observed that my independent development paralleled the direction pursued by a local group of painters referred to as Washington Color School.  I met several of these painters who urged me to start showing my work. Encouraged, I spent a few more years perfecting my style before joining the rank of professional.  I have since exhibited conte drawings on paper, oil and acrylic paintings on canvas and wood and plexiglass sculpture”.

James Hilleary died 10 April at a hospital in the District. He was 90.

Photo: Creative Commons James Hilleary in his Studio 2004 by Keirn Hilleary


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