Elemore Morgan Jr.
Elemore Morgan, Jr. was an internationally recognized landscape painter and longtime advocate of the visual and performing arts in Louisiana.
Elemore Morgan Jr. is Louisiana’s premier painter of the southwest Louisiana prairie in the en plein air tradition, creating a monumental collection of iconic works that capture the vivid palette of that broad landscape under spacious skies. Morgan also became an accomplished photographer and a figure study painter (of both humans and livestock) as well as a painter of still lifes, industrial buildings, architecture, and iconic landmarks.
Morgan was born in Baton Rouge on August 6, 1931, the only child of well-known photographer Elemore Morgan Sr. and Dorothy Golden Morgan, whose family settled on the Acadian prairie near Abbeville. He spent much of his childhood and adolescence in the fields and woods near his family’s farm south of Baton Rouge learning to “see” and then recording those forms in early drawings and paintings. Morgan’s youthful encounters with nature informed his work throughout his life. His family supported his interest in art as a youngster, and in his father he found a model for the professional artist.
Morgan’s formal education began in the early 1950s at Louisiana State University, where he studied with Caroline Durieux and Luis Guglielmi. He spent the mid-1950s in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Korea and Japan, which he says sealed the idea that art would be his life’s work. In the late 1950s Morgan enrolled in the Ruskin School of Fine Arts at Oxford University in England, where he worked mostly on human figure drawing. It was there he discovered his preferred method of painting in a rapid and gestural style. This approach of a direct response to an observed form led Morgan to devise a an easily portable kit for making art, facilitating quick, on-site paintings that eventually to his choice of working in the en plein air style with acrylic on a masonite panel. The dominant subject of his paintings is the Louisiana prairie.
In the 1960s Morgan worked with well-known Louisiana architect Neil Nehrbass on several architectural projects, including the Chancery Building of the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette. Morgan created a mosaic arch for the lobby of the chancery. He regards this commission as a direct influence on how he came to experience color, both in the eye and on the brush, in his paintings.
From 1965 to 1998, Morgan taught painting and drawing at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette), where he deeply influenced many contemporary Louisiana painters who studied or taught with him, among them Francis Pavy, Dennis Paul Williams, David Alpha, Randall LaBry, Melissa Bonin, Camille Banuchi, Hermam Mhire, and Bryan Lafaye.
Morgan has traveled widely; he always packs a paint kit for recording the scenes he has encountered in Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Switzerland, Syria, and across the United States. In 1994 he toured Japan extensively on a travel grant sponsored by the Japan Foundation. In 2007 he traveled on a Krasner-Pollock Foundation grant to New York City, where, again working in open air, he completed multi-paneled paintings of the Manhattan skyline. Among his last paintings are several riverscapes of the Mississippi as it flows past New Orleans.
Morgan died on May 18, 2008, in Baltimore, Maryland, after complications from heart surgery.
Elemore Morgan Jr. is represented by the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans and in the collections of the New Orleans Museum of Art; the LSU Museum of Art in Baton Rouge; and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. The Elemore Morgan Jr. Visual Arts Endowment honors his lifelong vocation and passion: that visual arts are a significant cultural necessity. The endowment supports exhibitions, symposia, and workshops throughout Louisiana and provides artists with scholarships.