In November 2017 HMA was pleased to accept from Peggy Shuford a gift of Ben Long's very recognizable portrait of her husband Pope Shuford that had been painted for his 50th birthday. This large oil on canvas is quite different from Long's twelve sketches and one oil on masonite that were then already in HMA's permanent collection; and the gift is particularly important for HMA in that it represents the portraiture side of Long's work along with honoring a significant member of the community and a long-time supporter of the Museum.
The thirteen earlier works were part of Long's preparation for his Last Supper fresco in what is now the Holy Trinity Church of the Fresco, in Glendale Springs, NC. This was Long's second project of two in Ashe County, the first being three frescoes at St. Mary's Episcopal Church.
Long moved to Glendale Springs in 1977 where after several years of preparation including envisioning the finished work and preparing the wall behind the altar, Long with about twenty students painstakingly applied the colors for the Last Supper (below) in three months in 1980. The two churches now attract thousands of visitors every year.
It is interesting to note that Long's initial contact, in 1972, with the Rector of the two churches reportedly took place at the Blowing Rock home of North Carolina painter Philip Moose. The Rector was renovating Holy Trinity and welcomed Long's idea of adding frescoes, especially since Long supposedly offered to do them for free.
Left: Three Apostles (Andrew standing, Bartholomew and James). Pen and pencil sketch on paper.
Center: Head Study of Bartholomew, oil on masonite.
Right: Feet of Bartholomew. Red chalk and pencil sketch on paper.
The twelve sketches and the one oil were all a 2013 gift from Robert Lee Combs, Jr., Pamela Combs Bruner, and Ray Custer Combs in memory of their parents Bobby Lee and Elsie Hunter Combs. All are dated 1980 (LXXX) and were purchased directly from the artist in 1982.
Benjamin Franklin Long IV Long grew up in Statesville, NC, and studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From there he went on to advanced studies at The Art Students League of New York, like his grandfather McKendree Robbins Long had done many years earlier. In 1969, Long enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Combat Officer, including during the second tour as Commander of the Combat Art Team.
After his military service, Long went to Italy and became an apprentice to internationally acclaimed artist Pietro Annigoni, learning fresco art techniques while also devoting himself to mastery of oil on canvas. He relatively quickly gained a name for himself with fresco painting in the United States from his beginnings there in Ashe County. In 1984, Long moved to France where for the next 14 years he split his time between Paris and Provence, while also continuing to paint major frescoes in Italy as well as in the United States.
In addition to his prolific fresco work, Long has exhibited portraiture works in Italy, London, Paris, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, and the Carolinas, and is represented in major collections throughout Europe and the Americas.
Long (pictured around 2000) has lived and worked in Europe for the last thirty-plus years and now divides his time between Italy and Asheville, NC. "It just feels good" he says of Asheville. And, in Asheville three of his five sons live nearby.
Long describes the fresco process here, on his own web site.
Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since March 2015. Photographs from the Holy Trinity Church in Glendale Springs, NC are by me.