Wilford Seymour Conrow (1880-1957)

Wilford Seymour Conrow (1880-1957) Morning, no date oil on canvas Gift of Mildred M. Coe, 1994.1

Wilford Seymour Conrow (1880-1957)
Morning, no date
oil on canvas
Gift of Mildred M. Coe, 1994.1

There is a story about Morning that may or may not be true, but it is a plausible story. Supposedly, one day when Conrow was walking down a familiar street in Paris, he happened to see a woman in a window, calling down to the bread seller below for a loaf of bread. This would have been unremarkable except that the woman was completely nude and completely lacking any self-consciousness about it. Conrow later imagined the same scene from inside her apartment, and the result was Morning.

Teacher, mentor, friend, benefactor: Wilford Conrow was all those things to Paul Whitener, HMA’s founder. They met when Conrow was vacationing in the North Carolina mountains; and over time, Conrow supported Pauls’ ambition to found a museum by providing advice on fund raising, contacts for either money or paintings, as well as the gift of a number of his own paintings.

Born in South Orange, NJ, Conrow was one of few painters who had not only a college degree, but business experience as well. Conrow spent a year at the New York School of Art after having earned a degree in business from Princeton University. He then worked for ten years in business before traveling to Paris to again study art. When WWI interrupted, Conrow served as Chief Instructor of Camouflage for the US Army in Europe. After the war he returned to New York City, married and set up a portrait studio. Conrow grew to be known as one of the finest portrait artists of the 20th century.

Before beginning a portrait, Conrow would learn all that he could about his subject, developing an understanding of the subject’s inner character. This helps account for the warmth and personality that are part of all his paintings.

HMA’s very first exhibit, in 1945, was of a selection Conrow’s works.

Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since our blog's inception in March 2015.