Protest by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1946, Oil on Masonite, 36×24
Yellow Eye (Protest) by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1946, Oil on Masonite, 32 1/2 x 24
Compo #A9 by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1949-51, Enamel and Sand on Masonite, 49×43
Arena #32 by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1960, Enamel & Sand on Canvas, 59×36
Arena #61 by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1961, Enamel & Sand on Canvas, 45×34
Estrellas de la Noche #13 by Robert P. McChesney, 1967, Mixed Media in Polyester, 12×12
Estrellas de la Noche #28 by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1969, Mixed Media, 47×36
Estallido #12 by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1980, Acrylic on Panel, 48×36
Lahontan #22 by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1986, Acrylic on Panel, 36×28
Canyon Country #23 by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1991, Acrylic on Panel, 48×36
Jubilee by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1947, Linocut – SOLD
Festival by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1948, Oil on Panel, 38×26
Crucifixion by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1944, Watercolor, 19×12
Girl with Brooch by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1945, Watercolor & Gouache, 22-3/4×15-1/2, Oki-Eni Series
Young Bird by Robert Pearson McChesney, 1945, Watercolor & Gouache, 22-3/4×15-1/2, Oki-Eni Series
** As representatives of the Robert Pearson McChesney estate, we have a large selection of works from all periods of his career. What is illustrated is just a small sampling. Please contact the gallery for more information.
Robert Pearson McChesney had a long and distinguished career as one of the Bay Area’s preeminent abstract painters. Born in Marshall, Missouri in 1913, he attended Washington University in St. Louis and completed his studies at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. Moving to San Francisco in 1937, he was soon employed by the Federal Art Project painting murals for the Golden Gate International Exposition. He later assisted Anton Refregier in painting controversial murals in the Rincon Annex Post Office. He was deeply involved in the labor movement of the time, and became a merchant marine seaman. In his travels around the globe, he painted watercolors in his free time on board. This experience helped to free him from the boundaries imposed by 6 years of academic training.
While teaching serigraphy at the California School of Fine Arts (now known as the SF Art Institute) in 1950-51, his colleagues included Ed Corbett, Hassel Smith, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. The students, many of them war veterans, were generally of the same age group as the teachers, which led to a much looser, more congenial vibe than what he had experienced in his student years. In this so-called “Period of Exploration,” the cumulative talent exploded into new modes of expression, from abstract expressionism to Bay Area Figuration. Due to disgust with McCarthyism and loss of their teaching jobs, “Mac” and his wife, sculptor Mary Fuller McChesney, moved to Mexico in a Ford Model A mail truck reconfigured as a camper. En route, they spent time in Taos with Bea Mandelman and Louis Ribak, as well as San Francisco friends Ed Corbett and Richard Diebenkorn. In Mexico, Mac embarked on a new series of paintings, quite different from his previous work, dark, subtle, mystical abstractions in somber tones. When their money ran out, they moved back to the Bay Area. Given a piece of land near the top of Sonoma Mountain, they hand built their house, largely from scavenged materials. Mac then embarked on a new series, “Mountain,” one of which was purchased by the Whitney Museum. The ensuing series, “Arena,” received broad critical acclaim. After that came a series of mixed media works incorporating poured resins, bones, sisal, and other materials.
Most of his work after 1970 consisted of abstract acrylic paintings on wood panels. His methodology was to squirt liquid colors onto the horizontal panel, manipulating them rapidly, creating chaos. Upon drying, he would work methodically to edit out messes, leaving happy accidents exposed, and add new elements, bringing order to chaos. The seeds for this manner of working were sown with his “Slip Sheet” series in 1955. Much of the work from 1970-95 was inspired by desert landscapes. After this he turned to inner and outer space for inspiration. Mac died in 2008, leaving behind a remarkable body of work.
Robert McChesney: A Retrospective. Nevada Museum of Art: E. L. Wiegand Gallery. October 21, 1994 – February 5, 1995.
Robert McChesney: From Arena to Canyon Country. An American Point of View 1960-1996. Fresno Art Museum: June 7 – August 18, 1996.
Robert McChesney: Order Out of Chaos. The Galaxy Series 1998-1999. California State University, Fresno: Phebe Conley Gallery. September 13 – October 28, 1999.
Visit The Quicksilver Mine Co. for more information on Robert Pearson McChesney.